When an uptight young man and his fiancée move into his libertine mother's house, the resulting clash of life attitudes shakes everyone up.


Lisa Cholodenko


Lisa Cholodenko
2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Frances McDormand ... Jane
Christian Bale ... Sam
Kate Beckinsale ... Alex
Natascha McElhone ... Sara
Alessandro Nivola ... Ian McKnight
Lou Barlow ... Fripp (as Louis Knox Barlow)
Russell Pollard Russell Pollard ... Rowan
Imaad Wasif Imaad Wasif ... Dean
Mickey Petralia Mickey Petralia ... Mickey
Melissa De Sousa ... Claudia
Alexandra Carter Alexandra Carter ... Darla
Michelle DeMirjian Michelle DeMirjian ... China (as Michelle Demirjian)
Rick Gonzalez ... Wyatt
Dennis Howard Dennis Howard ... Mr. Elliot
Catherine McGoohan ... Mrs. Elliot


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 <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


On the road to the perfect life, Sam & Alex took a little detour.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality, language and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


This movie poster was copied in the Grand Theft Auto video game series. See more »


The album-wrap party takes place in a suite on an upper floor of the Chateau Marmont (we see Ian order more champagne for the "penthouse suite", and the view from the balcony is clearly an upper floor). Yet when Sam storms out of the suite, then runs downstairs while arguing with Jane, they only descend one flight before reaching the lobby. There is a cut, but the dialog implies that no time was cut from their descent. See more »


Sara: I just... I don't really know you, I... I just feel connected to you, I feel... I feel safe with you. Like it's okay to be honest. It's just one of those things. I'm just attracted to you. And it's not just because I think you're incredibly sexy.
Sam: [laughs, exhales, scratches his head] I think that you're incredibly attractive too, Sara, I do.
Sara: You do?
Sam: Yeah, I think about you. Trust me. A lot.
Sara: How do you think about me?
Sam: How?
Sara: Yeah. Do you think about me having sex with you?
Sam: Yeah.
Sara: How?
Sam: How do I think about ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to Christie Gaumer & Shakespeare and to Red Hot Chili Peppers. See more »


References The Lost Battalion (2001) See more »


Do It Again
Written by Donald Fagen (as Donald Jay Fagen) and Walter Becker (as Walter Carl Becker)
Performed by Steely Dan
Courtesy of MCA Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

User Reviews

Lady of the Canyon with an Oedipal Twist
30 March 2003 | by noraleeSee all my reviews

"Laurel Canyon" isn't a sharp enough barb at the music industry nor is it insightful enough about relationships, but there are individual performances and musical references to make it worthwhile.

Frances McDormand as a Queen Bee, omnisexual music producer is a prime reason to see the film, playing the opposite of her "Almost Famous" Mom. There are hints about her musical ears being passe, as her house has a lot more shelves and shelves of old LPs than the few new CDs piled up, plus the photos of her in studios with past stars. And classic rock seems to always play around her, but the excesses and record company pressures don't seem new and she is bedding a rocker 16 years her junior, basically her son's age. The realistic musical mise en scene includes appearances by musician Lou Barlow and producer Daniel Lanois, among others.

The basic tension is supposed to be her being the fascination of the abomination to her straight-laced son Christian Bale (pretty much playing the same character as in "Metroland") and his fiancee, Kate Beckinsale pretty much playing the Susan Sarandon role from "Rocky Horror Picture Show." There's also some irony about Bale's character being an effective shrink in training, with all his mother issues, and a new twist on mother-in-law issues.

But that is undercut by virtually all being drawn, a la the Rolling Stones' "Spider and the Fly" song which should be on the soundtrack but isn't, by snake-straight-from-the-Garden-of-Eden Alessandro Nivola's sexy leader of a rock band that sure looks and sounds a lot like Goo Goo Dolls or Coldplay (the film's composer is with the band Shudder to Think) and sincerely says all kinds of unbelievable things about commitment and has no problem writing a radio-friendly ballad. (I see that he's married in real life to Emily Mortimer which made me think that he was the inspiration for the cause of her character's horrific physical insecurities in "Lovely and Amazing" but he did give such a very sweet acceptance speech for her at the Independent Spirit Awards. After this movie, he could slither into pop music -- would he be the first from Phillips Exeter and Yale to take that career path?)

I have no idea why Natascha McElhone's husband-temptress is supposed to be Israeli, as her mangled accent is just odd.

There is a neat running visual leit motif about the different symbolic uses of a California swimming pool by different people, from early morning determined laps to late night skinny dipping.

The round-robin apologies (and lack of some) at the end simply make no sense and leave us finally with no catharsis or resolution.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 148 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

28 March 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Laurel Canyon See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$149,099, 9 March 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed