I had high hopes for this film, expecting something of an insight into the world represented by Ladies Of The Canyon
(Joni Mitchell's album was apparently the inspiration for the film's writer and director Lisa Cholodenko). The story's premise is the transplantation of uptight, over-intellectual hung-up east-coast Sam and Alex into the free-lovin', pot-smokin', laid-back west-coast household of Jane, Sam's mother. There's an immediate tension: Sam is a psychiatrist, Alex is finishing her dissertation on the sex lives of fruit flies (no, really) and Jane is a record producer with a bad-boy English rock singer lover called Ian (somehow that doesn't sound like an appropriate name for a bad-boy English rock singer).
While Sam tries to get to grips with his new job and deal with the attentions of a sexy colleague equipped with a pair of unreasonably large doe-like eyes, Alex taps away on her computer and peers at molecular models until, one day, the intriguing sounds of the tracks being laid down by Ian's band under Jane's direction become just too irresistible. And then... but you can probably guess what happens after that. It's not a bad story, but somehow I didn't really believe in it, or connect to the characters. Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale play Sam and Alex as so buttoned-down for so long that any displays of extreme emotion appear inauthentic, and the change in their relationship seems implausible. Frances McDormand's idiosyncratic performance as Jane is more interesting, but I couldn't really see why she'd be wasting her time with such a self-serving twit as Ian.
In what was probably a sure sign that I wasn't paying enough attention, I found myself wondering about the time taken for the American actor playing Ian to fashion an English accent, and whether he'd met Bale and Beckinsale travelling in the opposite direction in their quest to speak American. And when I wasn't thinking about that, I was admiring the interior of Jane's bohemian house, and the lovely views of the eponymous canyon. Perhaps it'd've been a better film without the people in it.