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LAUREL CANYON

A hedonistic record producer gets to know her future daughter-in-law far better than most people would consider proper.


CAST: Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale, Natascha McElhone, Alessandro Nivola, Louis Knox Barlow, Russell Pollard, Imaad Wasif, Mickey Petralia, Melissa De Sousa

DIRECTOR: Lisa Cholodenko

"That Ms. McDormand is as comfortable and convincing as an aging rock sybarite as she was playing the worrywart mother of a teenage rock fan in ‘Almost Famous’ is further evidence of her exceptional dramatic range. It's encouraging to see this handsome, dimpled-chin actress, who at 45 does not fit the prototype of a pneumatic Hollywood babe, emit the sparks of a sultry-eyed screen siren…‘Laurel Canyon’ is superbly acted, with the exception of Ms. Beckinsale, whose tense, colorless Alex conveys no inner life. The movie is almost stolen by Mr. Nivola, whose Ian is a fascinating contradiction: an articulate, sensitive musician and a charming predator."--Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"…the characters [of Sam and Alex] are tedious, as are the fussy performances of Bale and Beckinsale. Everything good in this rock & roll fantasy belongs to the sexy, worldly-wise McDormand, who makes Jane ripe, real, and irresistible." --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"In Lisa Cholodenko's astute and absorbing ‘Laurel Canyon,’ Frances McDormand polishes up yet another facet of her glittering talent playing a foxy, hedonistic L.A. mama who could be the bad-girl twin sister of her strait-laced ‘Almost Famous’ matron…By the time Alex is dipping into steamy threesomes with her mother-in-law-to-be and her younger lover, Cholodenko has created a situation in which this reckless, out-of-character behavior seems organic rather than sensational…Bale, one of the most intriguing actors of his generation, plays a young man rebelling against his liberal upbringing with a mix of bemusement and lost-puppy anguish, making this film as much about mothers and sons as struggling couples…A lazy and unsatisfying tease of an ending lets down an otherwise entertaining and witty drama." --Megan Lehmann, The New York Post

"… a smart, neatly observed and delicately balanced mood piece about displaced characters in a landscape with no character at all. It has power above and below the waist, and proves that not all the navels in L.A. are in the oranges… Mr. Bale, usually limited by roles that require him to do nothing but strip, is especially good as a tightass who must accept his mother’s peculiar definition of love if he’s ever going to learn how to give unconditional love to someone else. Another organic performance by the always surprising Frances McDormand finds her tough and funny and touching, with floppy, chain-smoking, loose-lipped mannerisms that hide a heart as big as her bank account. She means well, but she’s the kind of mother you don’t want to introduce to your lovers. She might iron the sheets, then jump in. Thanks for sharing, Mom." --Rex Reed, The New York Observer

"Does the comedy/drama/musical play any better than it sounds? The answer, alas, is only a tiny bit. And that’s solely because of Frances McDormand, who manages to bring warmth, humor and an edgy earthiness to the character of the wayward mother, a woman who, at heart, is a deluded narcissist who fancies herself a free-spirited artist…For the record, the roles of son, fiancee and lady doctor are played with breathtaking sobriety by Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale and Natascha McElhone. A drearier trio than this is simply not to be found." --Guy Flatley, Moviecrazed

"In its milieu and parallel story lines, the film suggests a bantam ‘Short Cuts,’ but for better and for worse, this is Altman without the razored edge. Cholodenko elicits appealing performances from her ensemble, but she never pushes their characters anywhere there isn't an easy out…There wasn't a moment in the film that I didn't enjoy, but neither was there anything that got my mind or heart racing… Cholodenko has a way with difficult women, and hands down the best part of ‘Laurel Canyon’ is McDormand's sexy, tough performance, which creates a terrific gravitational pull." --Manohla Dargis, The Los Angeles Times

"Ms. McDormand is the latest of the marvelously middle-aged actresses playing characters who can look at the shrunken past and the shrinking future without losing sight of the passionate present. At times, she seems to linger in the swimming pool—as though by staying long enough, she can return her estranged son to the comforting amniotic fluid of her womb…‘Laurel Canyon’ is not about a beginning or an ending; it’s closer to the middle—just before the hard decisions have to be made." --Andrew Sarris, The New York Observer