Moviecrazed
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LAUREL CANYON **


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

An earnest Harvard Medical School grad travels to L.A. with his sexy fiancee and moves in with his mom, a boozy, dope-smoking record producer who doesn’t hesitate to let the entire world—or at least the entire world of Southern Cal—know that she has slept with a bushel of men and a heap of women in her time. The question is, what will the budding medic do if he finds out his bride-to-be has come down with a case of heroine worship for his mother? And will hot momma act on her hormonal urge and take her future daughter-in-law to bed—a maneuver that would please her current young lover, a British rock singer who gets off on threesomes? Meanwhile, down at the lab, an aggressive, curvaceous doctor is making a play for sonny boy.

Enough of this Freudian froth. What you need to know is, 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. Writer-director Lisa Cholodenko, who created a small stir with "High Art," should immediately make a pitch to this miracle worker for her next film. My advice to McDormand, however, is to run, not walk, toward the nearest exit.

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. They should have followed the lead of Alessandro Nivola. Cast in the role of the horny rocker, Nivola obviously knew he was stuck in a sick joke and decided to play it for cheap laughs.