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Laurel Canyon (2002)

On the road to the perfect life, Sam & Alex took a little detour.

Directed by:

Lisa Cholodenko

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 103 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

‘Laurel Canyon’ is a strange film, not in that it never really seems to get anywhere, but in that it never really tries to. You could call it a snapshot of real life, in as much as real life, too, doesn’t always tie up all of its loose ends at one convenient moment, if at all. But that description fails because the characters are too shallow, one-dimensional and downright under-developed to come anywhere near successfully passing themselves of as “real”.

Written and directed by ‘High Art’ helmswoman Lisa Cholodenko, it’s the largely pointless tale of young couple Sam and Alex (Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale) and their unflinching inability to give themselves a bloody good shake and take some control of their lives. Needing somewhere quiet to stay so that student doctor Alex can concentrate on her dissertation, they gather up their stuff and move into the home of Sam’s record producer maw Jane (Frances McDormand). And, if you’re thinking the house of a free-lovin’ pot-smokin’ record producer possibly isn’t the quietest of places to do your studying, you’d be right. Before long, Alex is giving the books a miss and partying on down with mom and “the band”.

Essentially, it’s a tale of temptation and how it’s handled by the emotionally feeble – which means while Alex is busy taking her clothes off with very little persuasion, Sam’s getting lost in the eyes of weirdly-accented Israeli woman Sara (Natasha McElhone). In fact, bad accents could well be said to be the hallmark of this film, what with McElhone doing ten rounds with the Israeli twang, Brits Beckinsale and Bale desperately trying to come across as American, and Boston-born actor Alessandro Nivola topping it all off by playing an Englishman.

In short, this is an competently-directed drama with a mildly-impressive cast of names, but it falls short with its assumption that nobody on the planet has any sense of control and seems intent on carrying pretensions of the meaningful without the necessary substance to go along with it. It doesn’t say half as much as it clearly wants us to believe it does.

It's Got: A decent soundtrack.

It Needs: A much stronger plot.

DVD Extras A fairly bog-standard selection of stuff – director’s commentary, a featurette, some filmographies, TV spots and trailers. Nothing to write home about. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

High Art

Summary

Empty-skulled drama that just doesn’t have anything to say.

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