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3.3 out of 5 stars
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3.3 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 29 February 2012
I have to completely agree with other reviews. I too had high hope of this film , the cast (or at least some of them) , the subject , the location - all greatly appealed. The problem is its all so predictable and yet unbelievable at the same time. Predictable in that it is very clear how the characters will behave once brought together - unbelievable in that the set-up feels articicial and the relationships between the characters totally unbelievable.
And with very little action to keep ones attention - it very quickly became boring.
A shame.
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on 7 November 2009
...and I found it by accident. I was looking for Alessandro Nivola, who is achingly gorgeous (see him in Mansfield Park) and this came up, and seeing it had some pretty big names, all of whom I admire, on an impulse I bought it! I don't think Frances McDormand has ever made a dud film and I've seen most of them, she's just utterly brilliant. In fact the whole cast was excellent. The story centres around Bale, Mr Uptight, and his straight laced academic girlfriend, Beckinsale. They need a place to stay LA while Bale takes up a medical post. They're offered McDormand's (Bale's Mother, who it seems he's disapproved of since he left her womb) house in 'Laurel Canyon'. It's supposed to be empty but McDormand (this fast living, hippy chick, record producer) is there with a band, who's lead singer (Nivola) is also her current squeeze and they're against the clock trying to cut a record (that's old fashioned speak, I don't think they're called records anymore?). I won't try to tell the story as it's better watched but the shift in the dynamics between this mix of peole is very well done. It covers the full spectrum of emtions, it's very honest and heart warming and a bit sad, but it's also sexy. Though best of all it's bloody funny, not laugh out loud funny, it's not a comedy, but you'll smile a lot. I loved it, I've watched it twice, the second time with my son and he loved it too!
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on 19 September 2011
Despite some of the bad reviews I bought this film and found it a really entertaining saturday night film , put then I am a fan of californian music . Francis McDormand is brilliant as always and Kate Beckinsdale looks lovely . I did keep wanting to shout "Leave your borring partner and go and have some fun " . Best not to mention Alessandro Nivolas accent or once again the acting ability of Natascha Mcelhone . Still I enjoyed the adult story , watching excess is always fun.
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on 22 March 2011
I love this movie - saw it 3 times now and it's as good or even better than the first time. Only weakness is Natascha McElhone who to my mind is a silly actress - she has only one look: opens her eyes wide and give a supposedly seductive smile (she does it all the time in Californication where she's also badly casted) and her accent is pretty awful. Luckily we don't see much of her. The other leads are great, especially Frances McDormand.
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Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll make for great music... but not so great as an environment for a kid.

And it might make things a little awkward when you bring your fiancee home to meet your free-loving hippie record-producer mom. But "Laurel Canyon" doesn't lapse into obvious comedy -- instead it's a somber, wry little drama about the nature of desire, infidelity, family and whether your fiance can forgive you for making out with his mother. Not kidding.

Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) are newly engaged, and are planning to move to Los Angeles so Sam can start his psychiatry residency at a hospital, and Alex can work on her PhD dissertation. Fortunately Sam's mother Jane (Frances McDormand) has an empty house in Laurel Canyon where they can live and work peacefully.

Except... it turns out that Jane is still there, along with her younger boyfriend Ian McKnight (Alessandro Nivola) and his band. So until Sam and Alex can find a place of their own, they have to stay with her.

And it doesn't take long for friction to form between Sam and Jane, who have radically different ways of seeing the world. Sam also finds himself attracted to another resident, Sara (Natascha McElhone) -- unaware that Alex is slowly being drawn into his mother's rock'n'roll world, including a burgeoning attraction to Ian.

"Laurel Canyon" is an odd little movie -- it floats through the world of family, rock'n'roll, romantic attraction (with or without follow-ups) and learning to love your weird dysfunctional relatives. But the most important part is the question of what a wild, free-spirited life can do to your relationship with your kid, if you never really got to know them.

Director Lisa Cholodenko handles the drama with a delicate touch; there's no mockery of the aging hippie or her uptight doctor son, and none of the people involved ever descends into parody. There's a fair amount of humor (Sam trying to deal with a naked mental patient), but whenever the action shifts back to Laurel Canyon, there's a sense of bittersweetness -- despite the bright flowers, weed and airy freedom, it's full of people who either can't interact normally or don't know how.

And the actors really do a brilliant job here, particularly Bale and McDormand. While McDormand is clearly too young to play Bale's mom, she does a brilliant job with a fiercely independent, free-spirited woman who lives life according to her own rules, but wasn't a great mom because she just doesn't understand that her son is different from her.

Bale is also excellent playing the son she simply can't understand, a strait-laced young doctor who craves normalcy and quiet. It also has some solid performances by Nivola and Beckinsale. The latter hams it up at the climax, but she is otherwise pretty believable as a girl who has lived her whole life in a tidy, clean WASP box, and goes kinda nuts when she's shown the alternative.

But Cholodenko does cop out a little on the ending, when Alex's flirtations with the wild side lead to a nasty confrontation. Without revealing too much, nothing really comes of anyone's actions by the end -- it just sort of sputters out like a blown-out candle.

"Laurel Canyon" never quite deals with some of the messy scenarios in it, but it's otherwise a smart, clever little drama about family, sex and the balance between responsibility and living free.
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on 22 December 2003
Laurel Canyon is an unusual film for Hollywood. It is not your typical story line and that makes it interesting. It is about a young med student coming home with his (also med student) girlfriend to stay at his mother's place expecting she will not be home. Instead she is, and rather than this young couple being the free spirits, it turns out that Mom is a hippy holdover; albeit a fairly successful one who works in the recording industry. Frances McDormand plays Mom, and she is really what makes the movie worth watching. The British rock stars are also kind of cool!
The film says a lot about the relationship between mother & son. Some bits about the mother-girlfriend-rock star relationship are a little harder to imagine. Still, the film is worth watching, certainly for the acting, but also perhaps just to see the lifestyles of the rich and perverted!
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on 15 May 2011
So terribly boring. Story seems to be a lightly structured excuse for good actors to "expreess" their characters. These characters are one dimensional, and have the feel that they being given the space to develop their roles-it all seems like an experiment, with the actors all seeming like they've just left acting school and trying to impress each other with the grasp they have of their role. The cast are to a person unbelievable, their actions and motivations highly questionable; for instance, the young jogger who buys pizza & smokes and joins in a threesome with her partner's mother & boyfriend all too slavishly to allow the "plot" to move on. I couldn't wait for the end of this film, which finished predictably with a non conclusive scene. There are so many better films to watch than this sel indulgent waste of time.
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on 13 April 2014
I am not very happy with Amazon at the moment. I finished with Sky and joined Amazon to save money and found that I had watched a very expensive film in error. Please Amazon when selecting a film to watch the customer should be warned of the cost. I know that the cost of the films are there for all to see but a small sign that we are buying would help an elderly person realise that money is involved.
Apart from that Great Service.
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on 30 June 2014
I can just about remember this film, don't know where I saw it, or when, but what I do remember is Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale were a couple with problems who visit an idyllic setting and stay with some odd people and begin to have affairs. I fell asleep halfway through.
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