While we were all growing up most wished their parents were cooler. But it might be a case of being careful of what you wish for. This is one of the main premises behind the 2002 Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, The Kids Are Alright) penned and directed film, Laurel Canyon. The main character has a super cool mom and he hates it. It bothers him despite the fact that he is now an adult.
You would think that your daughter being with someone who is planning to become a psychiatrist would be enough for a father. Not for Mr. Elliott (Dennis Howard – Airplane II: The Sequel). The rather uptight man is father to the incredibly bright in her own right, Alex (Kate Beckinsale – Total Recall – 2012, Serendipity). Mr. Elliott and his wife are not happy when the young couple announce that they are moving to Los Angeles for Sam’s (Christian Bale – The Dark Knight, Vice) residency.
For the mean time, they are going to live in his mother’s house in Laurel Canyon. Sam is rather upset to find his mother, Jane (Frances McDormand – Fargo, Almost Famous), is living there. Jane, who is a successful music producer, has broken up with her last boyfriend and returned to live in her house while she is helping her young new boyfriend’s, Ian (Alessandro Nivola – American Hustle, Jurassic Park III), band record an album.
Not really comfortable with his mother’s free wheeling lifestyle, Sam wants to find somewhere else to live. Quickly. Alex, who is working on her PhD dissertation in genetics, seems less concerned about all the sex, drugs and rock and roll that is going on.
While friction between mother and son is building, changes are also occuring between Sam and Alex, who are both finding themselves drawn into different worlds. Sam finds himself attracted to another resident (Natascha McElhone – from television’s Californication) and Alex is drawn more and more into Jane and Ian’s world.
You can always count on the fact that Lisa Cholodenko films will be titillating. Such is the case here. We start off with a sex scene between Beckinsale and Bale and move onto other scenes of a threesome in a pool. Sexual energy flies around everywhere.
Living without a clear set of morals is seen as a recipe for disaster. For the person themselves as well as those around them. Though on the surface the character of Jane seems rather cool on the surface if you scratch away you soon discover that all her relationships suffer as a result. Jane is shown to be rather infantile as she has not ever really acted as an adult and certainly never parented her son.
The idea of fidelity is also explored. Temptation is instilled in the lives of both members of the young couple. Though it seems rather forced at times. This is a weakness throughout much of the film. As such the story never really picks up any steam or succeeds in completely drawing you in.
The four lead actors do good jobs with their characters despite the flaws in the script/story. Bale and McDormand being the best. One weird thing is accepting the fact that Frances McDormand is playing Christian Bale’s mother. Yes, it is possible as there is 17 years difference between the two, but yet it still seems like there is not enough of an age difference between the two actors.
-Commentary with Director Lisa Cholodenko
-Trailers for Laurel Canyon, All the Real Girls, Love Liza, Talk to Her