I really enjoyed this film -- it was a real treat watching Frances McDormand portray a character so unlike her other roles. And Kate Beckinsale is georgeous and beautifully tranforms her character (I don't want to be a spoiler, so I won't say how). The film has a true "indie" feel, yet features well-known actors. Complex relationships. Some drug use, profanity, sexual content.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Hilda S. from YORKTOWN, VA Reviewed on 5/4/2008...
This was a pretty good portrayal of a dsyfunctional relationship between a mother and son, and how it affected the other relationships that they both shared. Wonderful performances by Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsdale, and Frances McDormand was stellar.
4 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Frances McDormand is a "babe" in every sense of the word
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 08/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've always loved Frances McDormand. She completely gets into every role she plays. And in this film she's better than ever. Laurel Canyon is an area of Los Angeles where only the people who have "made it" live She's cast as Jane, a successful record producer in her mid forties. She lives her life with constant energy and enthusiasm. She smokes illegal substances and eats vegetarian. She looks great too, and is a "babe" in every sense of the word. We soon learn she has a long list of former lovers, both male and female. But currently she's involved with a young British rocker, played by Allesandro Nivola, and their couplings burn up the screen. Her son, Sam, on the other hand, played by Christian Bale, is exactly the opposite. He's just graduated from Harvard Medical School and is engaged to Alex, played by Kate Beckinsale, who is not only a doctor, but also a research scientist. They're supposed to borrow Jane's home while he completes his residency in a local hospital, but it doesn't work out that way. Jane stays in the house, which is also a recording studio, to finish up a record with the rock band. At the hospital, Sam meets a fellow doctor, Sara, played by Natascha McElhone and there is immediate electricity between them. And Alex spends her days in the house where she finds it impossible to concentrate on her dissertation and is welcomed downstairs to hang out with Jane and the band. Soon she's indulging in Jane's lifestyle. Eventually, she finds herself in a unique romantic scene.Conflict is inevitable of course, and the film plays out in a predictable way. And, when I think of it, the storyline is a little silly. But I loved the fact that the film was about an unconventional lifestyle. And I was amazed at the intensity of Frances McDormand's performance, which called for a full gamut of emotions. She made every scene in which she appeared sparkle and all other scenes paled in comparison.The film was written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko and even though the film is set in the present, there was a clear echo of the 1970s and the forces behind the rock music industry. Very enjoyable film. I highly recommend it."
Lisa Cholodenko embodies inhibitions, choices, and love...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 07/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The story surrounds Sam's (Christian Bale) mother Jane (Frances McDormand) who is a successful pleasure-seeking record producer in California. Sam escaped the hedonistic life style of his mother to seek a more responsible spot in the world through attending the Harvard Medical School from which he has recently graduated with a emphasis in psychiatry. In addition, Sam has furthered his rebellion against his mothers life style by proposing to a beautiful Harvard scientist, Alex (Kate Beckinsale). The perfectionist Alex moves with Sam to California where she can work on her thesis in regards to fruit flies and Sam can begin his residency in psychiatry. In order to save some money Sam and Alex move temporarily into Jane's house, which is a haven for drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll. Alex, who grew up in a rigid life style with country clubs and specific societal rules, are fascinated by Jane's life style and begins to explore the world that she never has experienced, which is about to lead into an emotionally painful journey. Laurel Canyon is a terrific film about inhibitions, choices, and love, which Lisa Cholodenko embodies through the different characters. Cholodenko depicts the personal rules of the characters through social interactions between the characters as well as in the mise-en-scene. These personal rules are about to be broken as the characters are set in a society where rules are not the norm or wanted. This leads to interpersonal conflicts as it will most certainly hurt the individuals in the social setting in which they live. The conflicts lead the audience to ponder what is acceptable and desirable in our contemporary society where many different norms exists. In essence these norms are scrutinized through the fine direction and performance by an excellent cast."
Spend the time to watch this one..............
J. Brown | Missouri | 07/22/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"it's not "edge of your seat" or dripping with romance, but its good. good, in that you can FEEL it. the tension, the issues, the past, all of it. kate b. is OKAY, her guy is okay. their generic relationship is okay. but, i think its real. Now, lets look at francis. SHE, ONCE AGAIN, IS INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if for no other reason you rent this movie, RENT IT TO SEE FRANCIS!!!!!! could she be any more real???? what an actress!!!!! actually, what a SOUL. i mean, what a soul she must have to pull from (to play these roles). rent this movie. she, alone, makes it worth it."
Well performed independent film
Nicholas Carroll | Portland OR United States | 10/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film represents the best in independent filmmaking. Instead of formulaic plot that's heavy on action and skimpy on the acting, what you get in this film are stellar performances and an interesting story, a sort of look into the complicated life of a rather conservative medical student, Sam (Christian Bale) and his girlfriend Alex (Kate Beckinsale, who looks great as usual) and his somewhat embarrassed relations with his free spirited Record producer mother (Frances McDormand). While there is little in plot, it hardly matters in a film like this, as the performances take you away into a world most have never seen, namely a record producer's studio in the Hollywood Hills (Laurel Canyon). The best scenes in this film are when Ian (brilliantly played by Alessandro Nivola in a very convincing British accent) is recording two songs, receiving instant feedback by Alex and Jane (McDormand). I absolutely love the songs he sings ("Shade and Honey" and "Someday I Will Treat You Good") and rushed out to buy the soundtrack cd after seeing this film in the theater. In fact, the entire soundtrack is good, and that's another reason why I love this film.
Frances McDormand's performance as a mother more interested in producing a record album than connecting with her son at his personal interests is outstanding and Oscar-worthy. She's so free spirited and independent, that it wasn't difficult for me to see why the younger Ian was attracted to her in the first place. She does have her limits though, when Ian wants a threesome with her and Alex, she breaks the mood and explains to him privately why it just wouldn't work. Alessander Nivola also has the best performance of his career, fooling me into thinking that he was a British actor, not an American one. He does that great of a job with the accent, and apparently, he's really singing too. As I watched this film, I was hoping that Alex would dump Sam and end up with him, because they seem well suited to one another.
Sam is the character I felt the most out of place, as I couldn't figure him out. He flirts with a fellow Med student, almost to the point of cheating, and we just don't get to see much chemistry between Sam and Alex, only that there is something standing in the way of those two, which probably had little to do with the thesis she struggled to write in Jane's house. The film ends without any kind of resolution, but its okay in a film like this. Independent films work because they don't follow standard plot rules, so long as the performances are strong (as they are in this film) and the story is compelling. The ending left me wanting more, but that's better than an ending where I wished they cut it down some. The musical choices on the soundtrack is the last ingredient that compels me to give this film five stars. It is a film that I watch regularly (every couple of months or so) and never get tired of doing so. This film has a certain "je ne sais quoi" quality I can't really describe, but compels me to watch over and over. The director deserves huge kudos for making a film like this, one that focuses on the characters and gives us a small slice of their lives, as incomplete as it is. Human relationships are often too complicated to be solved in a two hour movie, so I'm glad the director leaves the ending the way it is, with Sam taking a much needed mental health day to clear his head."