Not resting on their laurels
Lisa Cholodenko's "Laurel Canyon" could have turned into a predictable dysfunctional-family melodrama but it stays fresh and original, with help from the typically vibrant Frances McDormand.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
Sam, a recent Harvard psychiatry grad and his fiancˇe Alex (who's currently
writing her thesis on the sex life of flies, aka genomics) move to Los Angeles
from the east coast for Sam's internship and into the house owned by Sam's mother,
Jane, in the winding, affluent neighborhood of Laurel Canyon.
The only thing
is, Jane hasn't exactly vacated the premises yet, and soon enough (and somewhat
against their will) Sam and Alex become embroiled in Jane's hedonistic world
of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll (literally, since Jane is a record producer
with a live-in band fronted by her latest work in progress, Ian). As tensions
rise, straight-laced Sam finds himself distracted by a sensual intern (played
by Natascha McElhone) while the uptight Alex is similarly drawn to both Ian
|Written and directed by: Lisa Cholodenko.|
Cast: Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale, Natascha McElhone, Alessandro Nivola, Lou Barlow, Russell Pollard, Imaad Wasif.
Cinematography: Wally Pfister.
Music by: Mark Linkous, Craig Wedren.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
In anyone else's hands this film might have been a disaster, a cringe-worthy
amalgam of familial dysfunction, sexual exploits, and big, predictable moments
that hang around like three-day-old helium balloons. Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko
("High Art"), on the other hand, infuses her oft-told tale with insight, freshness,
and a certain peculiarity, populating it with actors that get well inside their
characters and walk around them for days.
Christian Bale ("American Psycho") and Kate Beckinsale ("Serendipity")
play the likable Sam and Alex. They don't quite cut it during their climactic
head-to-head but otherwise theirs are confident, engaged performances. Alessandro
Nivola ("Mansfield Park") is equally solid as British popster Ian McKnight.|
But as you might expect, Frances McDormand is the true find here. Well,
she's not exactly a find since she's been churning out quality work ever since
her debut in the Cohen Brothers' "Blood Simple" and she's not exactly a revelation
either since she's long since exposed her talent to us. But McDormand is pretty
much perfect in "Laurel Canyon"; she's a tower of strength as a carefree, career-minded
40-year-old who hasn't quite figured out what it means to be a mother.
"Laurel Canyon" is purposefully written and delicately structured. It
classily sidesteps clichˇs and balances scenes of true drama with intriguing,
smaller moments. It never falls prey to its dicey subject matter, avoiding
stock situations and world-weary characterizations. Heck, even the songs Nivola's
character sings sound like genuine contenders. "Laurel Canyon" is a keeper.
|JULY 15, 2003|
OFFOFFOFF.COM THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK
Reader comments on Laurel Canyon:
Wow from Ray, Feb 3, 2005
Post a comment on "Laurel Canyon"