REVIEW: Laurel Canyon (Lisa Cholodenko, 2003)

Sam is a studying psychiatrist whose move closer to the hospital in which he'll be serving his residency brings him to live with his mother, Jane. With him is his fiance, Alex, who, to Sam's dismay, becomes enamored with Jane's free rock n' roll lifestyle. An excellent ensemble cast ushers to life this quest to find balance between decadence and moderation.

On the surface, Laurel Canyon is a simple story about a love pentagon, but when we look deeper into the ingredients, the re-treading of writer/director Lisa Cholodenko's (High Art, Cavedweller) screenplay brings other intricacies to light. We are presented with morally parallel characters who we can relate to on respective levels, and from that platform we take off contrasting the core pleasures of life with the security of established society.

Production Designer for the film is Catherine Hardwicke, director of Thirteen and notable production designer for such films as Tank Girl, Three Kings, and Vanilla Sky. Her work definitely shows, as Laurel Canyon's visual style is a pleasure to look at. The direction could stand a stronger spice, but Cholodenko herself admits that she was caught up in her own writing and prefers to work solely as a director for someone else's script.

The five key roles are accomplished with comprehensive, solid performances. Christian Bale, like it or not one of the most talented actors working today, delivers yet another uncompromised character. Natascha McElhone continues to be one of the better female performers out there while her character's competition, Kate Beckinsale, proves to all the non-believers that she can indeed act - very well at that. The unlikely rock star is played by emerging star Alessandro Nivola alongside the consistently impressive Frances McDormand, who attains stellar sexiness despite occasionaly reminding me of Willem Dafoe.

Laurel Canyon may not appeal to everyone, but it has potential to really strike a chord with some. What it certainly does is bring up some provoking issues about some of the most important things in life. I enjoyed it and if you're at a loss, it's well worth a rent.

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