Laurel Canyon, the perfect boring couple, Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) talk at each other and sometimes lie to each other. Sam has to move back to the titular Laurel Canyon to practice psychiatry in a great hospital there, and Alex comes with to finish her dissertation. temporary bunking with Sam’s mother Jane (Frances McDormand) and her lover Ian (Alessandro Nivola), the environment proves to hinder work and shake up relationships.
It’s funny that 60% of the major players in this film are British but make for more convincing Californians than Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska. And that bale and Nivola could have changed roles but the American Nivola does fit the hairy-chested, childlike Chris Martin-eqsue role better.
Alex is such a complex character that Cholodenko has to justify the script’s choices within and around her. When she gets invited to join Jane’s group, Jane explains that she can judge Jane’s work because common sense drives popular music, thus anyone can judge it. When Sam pours his heart out to Sara, it follows with a scene when Alex misunderstands everything he’s been saying to her. A question is often followed by an answer, thankfully those answers aren’t too expository.
And oh Lord, Kate Beckinsale. I’ll always love her for her deadpan fierceness, if that exists, in The Last Days of Disco. Her MUBI profile doesn’t show how derided she is after The Aviator. As the soft-spoken Alex, her retreat with Sam lets her go through a sexual awakening at the same time as Sam, but hers is more intense, later on explaining that she’s never experienced fucking up. Within the film, she goes from routine lovemaking to romantic desire. It’s sad that they didn’t go through the full experience together. And she smokes a joint like a true beginner. I miss this girl.
Would it be fair to say that Cholodenko almost perfectly encapsulates the white experience? She doesn’t have the Holofcener/Fey guilt thing, but Cholodenko puts the straight-laced and the wild ones within the same square inch, or in this case, the same family. Most of the movie shows Sam and Jane treat each other passive aggressively until the big explosive scene in the denouement, which air some raw emotions out.
And again, time to download me some Mercury Rev.