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  • Laurel Canyon
    • Laurel Canyon
    • Runtime:103 min
    • Release Date:2014-12-19 07:47:52
    • Director: Lisa Cholodenko
    • Genres: Drama, Music
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:Laurel Canyon
Auhtor:

   

This is a really interesting movie; not quite sure why or how it hasn't
received more kudos that it has. The plot is not for the faint hearted
when it comes to issues of sexuality and nor is the language. But if
one is of a mature age and attitude; this is well worth watching. This
is an ensemble performance so I wont single out any single actor for
particular comment; the sound track is integral to the film and while
present, does not overwhelm. One of the interesting aspects of this
film is how it deals with age. Ultimately this film is about reality
and ambiguity of relationships and the importance of honest and as such
it about life. Highly recommended.

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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This might have been a good film if someone had been able to say
"enough" while they were making it. I'm not sure who's at fault here.
It could be a self-indulgent writer/director, feckless producers,
meddling studio executives or demanding actors. Whoever is to blame,
there are simply too many characters going in too many directions that
are too disconnected from each other. Those machinations leave too
little room to explore inter- and intrapersonal conflicts that are
sparked by plot devices and smothered by too much back story.

Sam and Alex (Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale) are a young unmarried
couple. He's a psychiatrist and she's his smarter half, going for her
PHD in genetics. They move to the West Coast for Sam's new job and have
to move in with his complicated mother Jane (Frances McDormand). She's
a record producer trying to finish up a new CD with the band of her
young boyfriend Ian (Alessandro Nivola). As Alex tries to finish her
dissertation, she gets caught up in the rock-n-roll atmosphere at
Jane's house and quickly morphs into a hanger on who's attracted to
both Ian and Jane. Meanwhile, Sam gets caught up in a mutual attraction
with an inexplicably Israeli doctor (Natascha McElhone) at his new
hospital. On top of all that, add in a running battle between Jane and
a record company executive (Melissa De Sousa) and Sam's attempts to
help a troubled young man with a mother who's like the anti-matter
universe version of Jane.

Laurel Canyon isn't poorly directed or poorly performed and none of its
individual scenes are poorly written. The film as a whole, though is
overstuffed and undercooked. The characters have to room to breathe,
the relationships have no time to grow and the overall story is never
able to get anywhere. Sam and Alex's relationship is barely established
on screen before they start drifting apart and since there's no way to
be really invested in them being together, there's no drama in seeing
that union strained. Sam and Jane are supposed to have a troubled and
distant relationship because Jane is a self-centered free spirit who
never really parented her son. But their family history is never more
than hinted at, Jane spends most of the movie behaving in relatively
appropriate ways and Sam and Jane probably spend less time together on
screen than Alex and Jane. The movie tells us there's a lot of
disappointment and regret between mother and son, but never explains it
and barely displays because the story spends so much time on so many
other things.

There's also about as much depth to Ian and Jane's love affair as the
average couple in a porno movie. They're together because the script
says they're together and because there's nothing to that connection,
there's no emotional resonance when Ian and Jane get involved with
Alex. You know such a threesome is wrong but it doesn't feel wrong
because you don't feel anything about any of the characters. It's
really just titillating watching the sexy Kate Beckinsale romp around
with the equally sexy Alessandro Nivola and the handsome Frances
McDormand.

Someone needed to sit down and figure out what was the point of this
film. Is it about a young couple finding their love challenged by
completely unfamiliar surroundings and behavior? Is it about a mother
and son getting over their unpleasant past? Is it about a sheltered
young woman discovering a new lifestyle and having to decide what kind
of person she is? Is it about a young man who has everything he thinks
he wants but then discovers something he wants something else? Laurel
Canyon tries to be all of that and more. The result is that it ends up
being about nothing.

This certainly isn't an aggressively terrible movie, though the ending
falls completely flat because the story is too busy to properly build
up to it. Watching this film, though, is an ultimately unsatisfying and
unmoving experience.

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A Hollywood touchy-feely movie that has all the subtlety of a lead
rock. It doesn't take much to soon figure where this movie is taking
the audience. The sexual threesomes or foursomes or twosomes or
whatever soon dominate the story as the audience is asked to accept a
whole range of implausibilities in order for the story to work. The
mother, the son, the girl-friend, the musician, all clichés, all
unbelievable, all annoying, most of all the son, played by Christian
Bale, in a glaring example of miscasting that is egregious, even for a
Hollywood movie, which is saying a lot. The setting itself is
contrived, as if Laurel Canyon is some kind of stage, a place that's so
special. C'mon! It's L.A. Nothing special about that. It's not even
Hollywood. Nothing in this movie works accept the final scene where the
two main male characters get into a fight. Only then does the movie
come to life. This movie is further proof that Hollywood should stay
away from the touchy-feely stuff and stick to what it does best -
producing c-g action pictures with cartoon-like characters. After all,
isn't that what the public wants?

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Very fine piece of film making. The words that spring to mind here are,
'heart warming' and this is a word that if I see it attached to a film,
I run a mile. But here the exceptional character development allows us
to initially 'take in' the person portrayed and then gradually have to
'reassess' because just like real folk, things are just not that
simple. And it is therefore appropriate to call this film 'heart
warming' in a good way because we are learning about the characters ,
their interplay and our own involvement. Simply put it makes us feel
good that even when we see people portrayed as bad, lazy, stupid,
selfish we can still come to see them through another light as good,
hard working, intelligent and helpful. In different circumstances and
with different people we can all be different too.

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