Laurel Canyon Lisa Cholodenko
Published Apr 01, 2003Laurel Canyon is an intimate and well drawn examination of a series of relationships on the verge of disintegration. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, engaged couple Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) relocate to Los Angeles, where Sam is to start his residency and Alex is to finish her dissertation.
When they arrive to stay at the supposedly vacant house of Sam's estranged record-producing mother, Jane (Frances McDormand), they find Jane very much at home, along with the band whose album she's working on and whose singer, Ian (Alessandro Nivola), she is sleeping with. While Sam's distain for his mother's environment causes him to distance himself with work, and especially with attractive co-worker Sara Natascha McElhone, Alex finds herself drawn to the excessive rock and roll lifestyle that she is suddenly surrounded by. A number of complicated emotional entanglements inevitably ensue.
The film articulates well the toll that external pressures and temptations exert on a seemingly happy and functional relationship. There is a real honesty to the writing, which fleshes out each character with just the right mixture of vulnerability, humour and pathos, making their development precise and their motivations understood. The high calibre of the acting aids this tremendously, with each of the leads fully immersing themselves in their roles to great effect. Lisa Cholodenko's (High Art) direction is also excellent, especially her ability to make the numerous sexually intimate scenes truly sexy, and often funny and surprising without coming across as exploitative or fake in any way. (Mongrel Media)