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Laurel Canyon
Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale, Alessandro Nivola, Natascha McElhone
Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko Produced by: Susan A. Stover, Jeff Levy-Hinte, Susan Strover
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsdale

Take one grown up kid utterly embarassed by his way too cool mother who still snorts coke and screws rock stars of any sex and you have the story of every mother's son. (Well not every mother's son, not all of us get that lucky.)
We become the opposite of our parents and Christian Bale playing the uptight son engaged to the ultra restrained Kate Beckinsdale character is doing it all by the numbers. He has grown up to be a psychiatrist and rejects the 'party' lifestyle. The mother, a record producer, played with verve and relish by Frances McDormand, ( there's a kind of wasted Madonna about her) just can't let go of the good times and grow up, even though she knows she ought to.

Then there is the classic English Rockband in the recording studio at the bottom of her Laurel Canyon home. Funny, writing some pretty good songs and delivering intersting coherent performances they are an essential element to this story. Mix this all up with another woman, Natascha McElhone (playing an Isreali Psychiatric intern) who wants Christian Bale and thinks she can temp him away from the uptight Kate Beckinsdale. It should be easy, but our boy is in a straight jacket of his own making and can't let himself go. His fiance meanwhile is being seduced by his mother and the rockband. Allessandro Nivola in particular proves to be fascinating and she discovers temptations and desires she has long suppressed. Kate Beckinsdale plays with her virginal image to good effect and she really opens up in this role.

Laurel Canyon is natural, easy on the eye, a perfect little movie that seems at once terribly familiar and yet alluring. It is crafted with real human instinct and feels very real. it is emotionally rewarding and frustrating and a visual treat.

A small budget movie with limited release, yet it deserves a wide audience. Besides dross like the 'The Core' or the current top of the charts movies, this is a total treat and make the effort to seek it out before it disappears.

© Sam North - April 7th 2003

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