Photograph by Neal Preston Lady of the Canyon: Frances McDormand lives every day as if it were in 'Laurel Canyon. What's that line in The Last Tycoon?
It's as if you're a ghost in a haunted house; you know what people are supposed to think about it, but it's hardly scary to you. Lisa Cholodenko's new film, Laurel Canyon, hints at the devastating effects of L. The surprise is that Cholodenko roots for hedonism. Yet the milieu she's fictionalizing doesn't seem well observed; moreover, the bruises in a tug of war between a too-loose mother and a too-tight son heal too fast--this, despite a satisfying performance by Frances McDormand as Jane, a noted record producer who treats every day as if it were His fiancee is the even more uptight researcher Alex Kate Beckinsale , so straight-laced it's a wonder she can walk.
The two planned to housesit for Sam's mother, Jane. Unfortunately, Jane's still on the premises, as is her current boyfriend, a good-looking, years-younger rock singer Alessandro Nivola who swears his love is true. Still, he isn't opposed to opening up the relationship a little. Cholodenko excels at seduction scenes; the sexual tension gets tense indeed. And it's a pleasure to see a life of pot smoking, pool lolling and music making treated as a life well spent.
In the similarly plotted High Art, a young, serious, career-minded girl is lured by the sound of music seeping through her walls right into a realm of drugs and no-strings sex.
That's also what happens in Laurel Canyon. Alex is teased away from her mind-bendingly dull dissertation into Jane's world of play. Watching Alex fight the feeling, I remembered Radha Mitchell's character in High Art bathing her aching head in an office drinking fountain after a rough night.
Living a double life is showing on her, and she hopes she can scrub the look off her face with cold water. Beckinsale's Alex is less convincing as an innocent; the struggle isn't as internal and fierce. Plus she overcompensates with the old-movie trick of unflattering glasses and pulled-back hair. In High Art, you never knew where the characters stood. In Laurel Canyon, Sam's work as a resident underlines the contrasts between the straight and normal life as if with a yellow felt-tip pen. His patients consist of one drug overdose and one deranged girl who refuses to put her clothes on.
The image of Mitchell may have been the point of departure for Cholodenko's story--the fun-loving but haunted woman insisting on male privilege, giving as much heartbreak as she got. McDormand's Jane is a different kind of woman than Joni, more profane, less shy. Yet she's always convincingly tough and sensual, the soul and the backbone of the film.
Laurel Canyon R; min. Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters metronews.