I've been anxiously waiting to see
Laurel Canyon ever since I first saw the trailer which seems like
eons ago. So, my expectations were high going in, always a dangerous
way to see a movie. But, what a relief, it was good. It was
more than good. Of course, Frances McDormand is on my top ten list
of actors who can be reading from the phonebook for all I care. She
is a joy to watch anytime. In Laurel Canyon, McDormand plays
a famous rock music producer, for whom the sixties are still a way of life.
Her almost estranged son (Christian Bale) gets a psychiatric position in
L.A. and arranges to stay in his mother's house thinking that she won't
be there. He arrives with his fiancee (Kate Beckinsale) in tow only
to find McDormand still ensconced in the house along with the band she
is recording. The lead singer in the band (Alessandro Nivola) is
also her current main squeeze. Soon, they are one big happy family,
with Bale off to work each day with his beautiful co-worker (Natascha McElhone)
while Beckinsale stays at the house to work on her Ph.D. dissertation.
As anyone who has written a Ph.D. thesis could have predicted, it isn't
long before Beckinsale is so bored out of her skull that she starts spending
all her time smoking up with mom and the band in the recording studio much
to her fiance's chagrin. Some interesting combinations and recombinations
of our five main characters ensue.
for Internet Movie Database entry)
I was a little concerned
that my expectation level was too high at the beginning of Laurel Canyon.
But it settles down quickly and takes off. This is the second film written
and directed by Lisa Cholodenko. Her first film, High
Art, got a lot of Indie awards. Three-fifths of the cast (McDormand,
Bale and Nivola) are really great. The other two (Beckinsale and
McElhone) aren't bad but they just can't play with the big boys.
In addition, McElhone has one of the worst accents ever. Actually,
it wasn't a bad Russian accent but unfortunately her character was an Israeli.
McElhone is English. Bale is Welsh and plays an American. Beckinsale
is English and plays an American. Nivola is American and plays, you
guessed it, an Englishman. Only McDormand gets to play someone from
her own country. Where was I? Oh ya. The cast is good and very good looking.
McDormand, Bale and Nivola make the sparks fly through the whole movie.
OK, McDormand is always great and won an Oscar for Fargo.
Bale has been around since he was twelve (Empire
of the Sun) and made a big splash with American
Alessandro Nivola? Who's he? He's been knocking around
for a while in small parts but I never noticed him. You will notice him
in this movie.
Laurel Canyon has got
a little of everything and has a nice pace that carries you through the
movie. Even though Laurel Canyon has been released so early
in the year, that it is certain to be forgotten at Oscar time, It is the
first film on my 2003 top ten list. It is just starting to
go into general release so look for it where you live and go to see it.