Netflix It: Laurel Canyon

Katie Presley

“Laurel Canyon” is a love story set in Los Angeles. This should make it very clear it’s going to be a strange love story.

Alex (Kate Beckinsale) is engaged to Sam (Christian Bale), who has just started practicing as a psychiatrist. The pair has moved to Los Angeles for Sam’s residency and are told by his mom they can stay in her Laurel Canyon home. Sam and Alex show up at the house expecting to hunker down into predictable, smart-people domestic bliss. Sadly for them, and luckily for us, his free-spirit mom Jane (Frances McDormand, one of the best actors working today) is still there, producing an album for her latest boyfriend Ian. As Jane is wrapped up in Ian, Ian gets wrapped up in Alex, luring her into the studio to smoke pot or into the pool to frolic naked or into his hotel room to…frolic naked again. Infidelity, insecurity, drugs, tenderness and sexiness ensue.

Don’t look for a holistic, satisfying finish to this film. Look for how it would actually happen. That’s what I think is so great about “Laurel Canyon.” It shakes off movie-ville just long enough to seriously mess with your conception of acting and movie sex and movie dialogue. It’s frustrating and unfinished and uncomfortable and one of the best things I’ve seen in years.

(2002)