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Robert Sean Leonard,
An American girl inherits a fortune and falls into a misguided relationship with a gentleman confidence artist whose true nature, including a barbed and covetous disposition, turns her life into a nightmare.
Newly graduated psychiatrist Sam and his fiancee Alex move to Los Angeles for Sam's residency and into Sam's mother's house in upscale Laurel Canyon. Only problem is, Sam's mother is still there, supposedly finishing up a record that she's producing for the band of her new boy toy, Ian. She seems more interested in smoking pot and drinking than actually working though. Alex doesn't mind but Sam is quite upset. Alex starts off focused on her work (finishing a dissertation on genomics), but is soon distracted by the rock-'n-roll lifestyle going on around her. Meanwhile, Sam is equally distracted by beautiful Israeli intern Sara. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
Absorbing character study with California ambience
I saw this film at the Miami International Film Festival and was thoroughly absorbed and entertained. I don't know if it will be as successful as the director's much-lauded "High Art" from several years ago; "Laurel Canyon" is not as serious, though it does explore some of the same themes. All of the performances are pitch-perfect. I suspect audiences will especially enjoy and identify with Kate Beckinsale's character: a studious and sheltered young doctoral student who takes to the hedonistic Los Angeles lifestyle in a big way. Frances McDormand and Christian Bale are also wonderful.
Music is almost another character in this film; it pervades the atmosphere. The music, by such artists as Mercury Rev and Clinic, complements and underscores the dynamics between the characters. It's been awhile since I've seen a movie with such an intoxicating sense of place as well: whether accurate or not, Los Angeles is portrayed as a sybaritic wonderland. The film revels in the sensuality and freedom of this rarefied realm, and it's intriguing to see the effect on the young couple.
When Frances McDormand's music producer character asks Alex her opinion on the record she's producing, Alex declines, saying she doesn't know much about popular music. McDormand responds, "Follow your instincts. It either pulls you in or it doesn't." This movie pulled me in.
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