Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Obscure Movies I Love, pt. 4: Laurel Canyon

So, when Wiwille posted his "Movie Review" challenge offer, I suggested he review the little-known indie film Laurel Canyon. I also said that once he posted that I would respond with my own review. I'm a little late.

Written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, director of another great indie film High Art, Laurel Canyon centers on the relationship of a couple of young doctors (played by Kate Beckinsale and Christian Bale) who move out to L.A. for the husband's internship. The couple plans on living in what is supposed to be the vacant home of his record producer mother (played by Frances McDormand). Unfortunately, she is still in the house recording a record with a rock band. Her loose rock'n'roll lifestyle does not jive with her son's rather straightlaced outlook, but proves tempting to the sheltered wife. Add to the mix his sexy co-worker (played by Natasha McElhone) who is tempting to him, and life gets messy.

The foundation of the film is the writing. Many a story has been drawn around relationships and the stupid things that people do to screw them up. This one, however, rang true to me. It's not something everyone can relate to, but having been the conservative, uptight type (I was once, yes) I can relate to Bale's character's conflict with what he views as the irresponsible lifestyle his mother leads. Having also been somewhat sheltered, I can relate to the temptation of Beckinsale's character when she gets close to that other kind of life. Jealousy, temptation, and lack of communication are all relationship factors most of us have experienced, and they are the foundation of the well-written characterization in this story.

The acting is also top-notch. Cholodenko clearly found herself an amazing cast, and must have known how to help them do their job well. Some of the actors, like Bale and Beckinsale, were not nearly as famous then as they are now, so perhaps part of it was luck. Either way, I felt the performances were excellent.

The cinematography was so-so. Nothing fantastic. It's the story and acting that make this movie great.

The biggest criticism I can give this movie is that it delves into experiences that maybe not many viewers can relate to. But if you can look past the face of it and see the truths of relationships that it addresses, you can find something in this film to relate to. Rent it!

Previously on The Inexcusable:

Obscure Movies I Love, pt. 3: the Jason Priestley double-feature

Obscure Movies I Love, pt. 2: A Shock to the System

Obscure Movies I Love, pt. 1: Diggstown


Wiwille said...

Never heard of High Art either, but it's got Ally Sheedy. Don't know why that makes it worth a look, but I'll add it to my queue regardless.

Mattbear said...

Ally actually acquits herself quite well in High Art, but one of the things she does well there is look awful. So it's nice that she's counter-balanced there by hot hot hot Radha Mitchell.