March 7, 2003
Laurel Canyon tells an everyday story. After all, we all remember the awkward moments when we introduce our potential mates to our parents for the first time. Where Laurel Canyon diverges from the norm is that in this series of events, the new girlfriend finds herself strongly attracted to her date's mom, Jane, and Jane's rock star lover. What follows next is a descent into sexual hedonism the likes of which would make Gene Simmons and Hugh Hefner blush. You're already sold, aren't you?
What's most surprising about Laurel Canyon is that the cast is relatively A list rather than Cinemax After Hours. Pearl Harbor hottie Kate Beckinsdale will portray the bi-curious swinger-in-training. A court order prevents me from describing in greater detail how much I dig her so we'll quickly move along to Coen Brothers' constant (and Mrs. Joel Coen) Frances McDormand. She is cast as the hot-to-trot mama, Jane Bentley. I wryly note that she is basically playing Kate Hudson's role in Almost Famous after a quarter-century of time as a Bohemian rock-and-roll lifer who is still trying to stop the tour from ever ending.
The most surprising casting note is that Sam Bentley, the straight-laced son of McDormand's character, will be played by none other than American Psycho himself, Christian Bale. More conventional Hollywood thinking would have given him the part of the recklessly oversexed rock star, Ian McKnight, but that role was instead given to the magnificently named Alessandro Nivola, whom you might remember as dinosaur snack food in Jurassic Park III, or more likely as the scene stealing Pollux Troy in Face/Off. Bale's character is odd man out in this wild ride of sexuality, leaving him to reconsider his relationship with his previously estranged mother. The awkward nature of her intensely sexual relationship with a man his own age forces Sam to deal with many of his own inhibitions.
The film is written and directed by the supremely talented Lisa Cholodenko, her first such dual effort since her landmark debut, High Art. In that movie, she explored the fluidity of sexuality and the healing power of love to a doomed soul in a poignant manner. With Laurel Canyon, she looks to address the wild ride of the orgy lifestyle while still keeping central to the point of how a disaffected man might be able to come to terms with the lifestyle choices of his unconventional mother and possibly even embrace them. In the end, what self-respecting young male can say no to an orgy anyway?
Laurel Canyon is T&A drama. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Comparison films for Laurel Canyon