Laurel Canyon - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Laurel Canyon Reviews

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½ June 29, 2016
Lisa Cholodenko likes to tamper with the constraints of routine. In 1998's "High Art," her heroine, played by Radha Mitchell, thought her life and career were set until a chance meeting led her to the realization that she might not know what she wanted and who she was quite as well as she thought. In 2010's "The Kids Are All Right," a stable, long-running marriage is thrown into a tizzy after an intentionally ignored family secret comes to light.
2003's "Laurel Canyon," a mixed bag of an existential drama, concerns the individual plights of Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale), an engaged couple attempting to navigate adult life with graduate school recently behind them. Both stuffy and borderline neurotic, we meet the twosome just as they're moving from the respectable Harvard scene to the crowded territory of Los Angeles. Sam is a psychiatrist who has found work at a prestigious hospital in the area; Alex, a genomics major, is working on her dissertation.
The couple is in the titular region, much to Sam's disdain, because of his mother's (Frances McDormand) living there. Previous planning suggested that they'd be able to live in one her vacant homes while looking for potential houses. But as the result of a last minute change, Sam's mother, Jane, a legendary record producer, will remain at the quarters as they set up camp there. Since Sam and Jane's relationship is practically estranged, since Alex is hopelessly stuffy, and since Jane is mixing an LP and is having a fling with her focused upon band's frontman (Alessandro Nivola), things are bound to get messy. Nocuous, too, is Alex's increasing interest in Jane and company's fuck it lifestyle, and Sam's attraction to a co-worker (Natascha McElhone).
"Laurel Canyon" is wise when it comes to its characters -- Jane is so multi-layered that we feel as though we've known her for years, and Sam and Alex's inner tug-of-wars are more than just a little palatable -- but it's underdeveloped in story, which is mostly slice-of-life in scope but otherwise intrinsically stagy instead of free flowing like it should be. It wants to be a character study just as much as it wants to be a drama of acclaimed Off-Broadway distinction, and the indecisiveness makes it provocative but never quite involving.
But Cholodenko's understanding of her characters is admirable in its subtle brushstrokes, and her actors are finely cast -- McDormand, in particular, preternaturally redefines herself. And yet "Laurel Canyon," like its lost protagonists, always seems to be searching for something, even if that something is persistently unknowable. Interesting, but sometimes drivel.
½ March 15, 2016
Two yuppies enter the bohemian world, and complications ensue. Basically a well-acted soap opera, but Frances McDormand is great as always.
August 8, 2015
A really interesting movie with one of Christian Bale's very best performances and great performances from Frances McDormand, Kate Beckinsale, and Alessandro Nivola. Lisa Cholodenko is a very interesting filmmaker and I wish she made more movies more often. Great writing and direction from her.
½ June 15, 2015
With the talent on hand you'd think the movie would be is,it's mediocre.
May 25, 2015
While the film features strong work by the actors, the story never seems to go anywhere or offer anything new.
February 28, 2015
Not without it's issues, but Frances McDormand is effortlessly flawless and it's worth it just to see her.
½ January 21, 2015
Definitely a movie one might define as "sexy".
January 17, 2015
Have to say music in the movie is brilliant.
½ October 2, 2014
For a small film with an uncanny depth, I really enjoyed it.
July 3, 2014
Laurel Canyon is a street that runs through the heart of the Hollywood Hills, joining the middle-class, stolid environs of the San Fernando Valley to the heart of the city of Los Angeles. The canyon is notable for its varied residents through the years and has served, and continues to, as the home to many rock stars, musicians, performers, producers, and the like. Among its current residents are Jane (Frances McDormand), a legendary record producer, currently producing an album for a British band whose lead singer Ian (Allesandro Nivola) is her much younger lover. Jane and the band are creating the album in her Laurel Canyon house where she has a recording studio.

Janes son Sam (Christian Bale) and his fiance Alex (Kate Beckinsale) are both recent graduates of Harvard medical school. Conservative, solid and serious, the couple find it necessary to move to Los Angeles to complete their studies Sam is completing his Residency at the renowned Hausman Neuropsychiatric Institute, while Alex is intent on completing her dissertation on Drosophilia Genomics. Jane has offered her Laurel Canyon home for them to stay in, promising that it will be vacant. But when Sam and Alex arrive Jane and the Band are still working in Jane's home recording studio to complete the album. Sam and Alex begrudgingly stay at Jane's house until they can find an alternative place to live.

Once in the house, however, things begin to slowly unravel. Alex's attraction to Jane's and Ian's freewheeling lifestyle and Sam's hesitancy about renewing a relationship with his wayward mother as well as his growing attraction to fellow medical resident Sara (Natascha McElhone) slowly fill the house with tension and doubt...

also sstars Lou Barlow, Russ Pollard, Armad Wassif, Mickey Petralia and Melissa De Sousa.

directed by Lisa Cholodenko.
May 14, 2014
Pretentiously bohemian, and artificially feeling look at two "straight" young people being seduced by the "laid back" California lifestyle and mores of the rich and nearly famous "pseudo-Cools." Personally, although well-acted, I just don't find it all that interesting, since it doesn't feel all that real.
½ November 27, 2013
Amazing performances by all involved. Sadly, there isn't a great deal for these actors to work with and the film never really goes anywhere of particular interest.
May 10, 2013
great movie. different
½ March 18, 2013
Laurel Canyon is about as boring as a good movie can get. It has some interesting developments, a couple of characters worth watching, but nothing particularly special and it all drags on for far too long with little that's actually worthy of your time. It's predictable, relatively dull, and while it's made with skill and has good to really good actors taking part, I just couldn't invest myself in the story it was trying to tell. Perhaps that's a failure on my part, but the film didn't win me over.

I like movies with smart characters, and this one has two very smart people in the leading roles. Sam (Christian Bale), has recently become engaged to Alex (Kate Beckinsale), and the two have decided to move to Los Angeles. Sam has recently graduated and is starting his residency at the local hospital, while Alex is continuing her studies. They are going to stay at Sam's mother's house, which she won't be at because she'll be on her beach house. Or so we think. Turns out, she gave the beach house to her ex-husband -- something you can do when you're a rich record producer -- and has herself, and a band, staying in the one she promised Sam. Oops.

It's no big deal, right? Alex only needs peace and quiet to finish her dissertation, and a band will totally not be an inconvenience considering all they do is play music really loud. Right. Anyway, Sam's mother, Jane (Frances McDormand) is in a relationship with the band's lead singer, Ian (Alessandro Nivola), which is about as open a relationship as you're going to get. You can already see the ways these different lifestyles are going to clash.

So, Alex, who spends the day around the house, eventually starts to get involved in the culture that is Jane's life, while Sam, who rarely gets to leave the hospital -- such is the life of a doctor -- starts finding himself spending a lot of time with another woman, a fellow doctor, Sara (Natascha McElhone). Problems arise that need solving, obviously, and it'll all work itself out in the end. Maybe. Probably not. I don't really know or care.

The point is that it doesn't matter. The film could have complete closure, or it could be open-ended, and it would make no difference to me. None of the storylines managed to connect in any meaningful way, and even in the really tense, dramatic moments, I found myself yawning. There's not a whole lot of character depth, and any development that happens is superficial. These characters have to act this way because of the way the film has been written, not because they really should.

At the center of all the film's chaos is Frances McDormand, the only actor here who both creates a new character and becomes fully immersed in that creation. She deserves the top billing received here, even though the film isn't about her; it only becomes that way because of the presence she has while on-screen. Here, her hippie-of-the-70s woman is always compelling to watch, and if Laurel Canyon was about her and not a couple set on different trajectories, it might have worked. But, alas, this is not the movie we've been given.

Everyone else in the film is fine, but nothing special, especially when compared to or sharing the screen with McDormand. Bale, Beckinsale, Nivola, McElhone -- they're all accomplished in their own right, but their performances here are just fine. Nothing special, nothing bad; they do what they're told and they do it believably and credibly, but without managing to capture the screen. There are only so many ways to say that their performances are what's required and nothing more.

Fun fact: McDormand is also the only main actor who gets to use a natural accent. Beckinsale in English, playing an American. Bale is Welsh, also playing an American. Nivola is American, but playing a Brit, while McElhone is English, but playing an Iranian, I believe. That's not noticeable while the film is playing -- all of the accents are credible and if you didn't know the actors' natural accents, you wouldn't notice -- but I thought it was a fun thing to mention.

The problem for me is that it's all well-made, and that if it had something to interest us, I would have been very appreciative. Lisa Cholodenko, whose previous directorial effort was the acclaimed High Art, knows what she's doing. But the story is the problem here, not the director. Very few people could make this plot captivating, as it has been done before and isn't particularly interesting regardless of how many times it has been done.

Laurel Canyon is the type of film about which I have little to say. It's all fine and competent, but not compelling. If you're looking for a film to watch just because it's technically sound, then it's fine, but if you want a drama in which you can invest yourself, you'll want to look elsewhere. Good dramas have strong characters; Laurel Canyon has one. Frances McDormand shines, and fans of her should see it even though everything around is uninteresting. She captures the screen with the character she creates, and actually helps hide flaws in other areas. But, the film as a whole is not worth your time.
½ March 11, 2013
I wouldn't know what was the point of this movie until the last line of it. You'd have to be either of the two type of characters in this movie to understand what it's all about. Wonderful casting!
January 22, 2013
Batman takes on the murder house... Or just in another art film.
½ December 9, 2012
An interesting drama. Nothing special though, and a little depressing. Kate Beckinsale was outstanding though.
December 7, 2012
Would like to get round to watching.
September 24, 2012
10 years ago or now or whatever, Kate Beckinsale is too damn hot.
September 6, 2012
Love this movie.. One of my fav
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