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Movie Review: "Laurel Canyon"

This movie is only in limited release, so it may not have made it to where you are yet. Still, it's worth seeing as a kind of both homage and cautionary tale about the excesses of the hedonistic Southern California '70s lifestyle, which is still being lived by Jane (Frances McDormand, who's always terrific), a 50ish record producer who's trying to get a new band's record finished, even while having an affair with the lead singer, who's about half her age, and about the same age as her son Sam (Christian Bale), who's gone off to Harvard Medical School, met Alex (Kate Beckinsale), and is beginning his residency in psychiatry in Southern California, which is why he's forced into a new relationship with his mother, since the two of them (it's not made clear at the beginning, but Sam and Kate aren't married, just living together) need a place to live and Jane has a big house.

Got all that? OK, Sam goes off to begin his residency and meets another doctor, the impossibly attractive Natascha McElhone (doing a really bad Israeli accent) -- I mean, when have you ever seen a physician that gorgeous -- and they begin to flirt around the edges of an affair, all while Alex, who's supposed to be working on her dissertation, is being sucked into the music-biz lifestyle of the band, who, of course, sit around drinking, smoking dope, and having casual sex.

The movie can't really decide what it's going to be about -- whether it's celebrating this lifestyle or showing how easily two people who have spent their lives trying to get away from it can get sucked into it. There's one scene that would have been a perfect ending, and then the film goes on to what feels like an epilogue of sorts, and descends right back into the hedonism it appears to decry. Maybe that's the message too.

It's good, but not great. Maybe wait for a rental.

AYRating: ** 1/2