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Laurel Canyon

2002/Dir: Lisa Cholodenko/Frances McDormand/Christian Bale/Kate Beckinsdale/Natascha McElhone/Alessandro Nivola

I don’t know why lately every movie that I watch hits me where my feminism lives. I’m not a militant, politically correct, hyper-alert for offensiveness girl. But I do know that, as I get older, I keep my eye out for role models – examples of the kind of woman I want to be. And “Laurel Canyon” provided me with that.

Frances McDormand is marvelous in this movie. Her portrayal of aging but hip record producer Jane manages to overcome every complaint I had about “The Banger Sisters.” She’s so independent and so strong, but she’s not a cliché. She makes mistakes. She’s vulnerable. Though it’s never said, you see moments of insecurity overcome her but they don’t consume her. She doesn’t let it hold her back.

Now, just because I’m so entranced by this character doesn’t mean there’s not more to the movie. I think we’re meant to focus more on Jane’s son Sam and his girlfriend Alex who come to stay at Jane’s house so he can do a psychiatry residency and she can work on her dissertation. Jane wasn’t supposed to be home but the band she’s working with is taking a bit of extra time to finish their record. Jane is also involved with the sexy young singer of the band. See, damn it, it all comes back to Jane. Anyway, I really wanted to like Sam because, damn, Christian Bale is hot but despite the compassion he displays with his patients, he’s a little tightly wound. So is Alex, for that matter, but she… well, she really loosens up in the course of the movie if you know what I mean and I think you might. And Alessandro Nivola is just perfect and hilarious as the cocky yet sensitive, kind of an asshole, but not a bad guy rocker.

The one weak spot is the flirtatious relationship between Sam and fellow resident Sara. Maybe they didn’t have time to explore it, but I find it hard to buy into this “connection” they just had after he nearly gets into a car accident with her. Mostly it just seems thrown in so that Sam can fuck up too.

And that brings us to the over-riding theme to this movie, it’s about the freedom to fuck up and be forgiven for it. Every featured character does and I guess it’s up to you which one you want to relate to the most. I wanna be Jane. Without the grown son, though.


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