Frances MacDormand can certainly get

by francine Hardaway on January 23, 2003

Frances MacDormand can certainly get into some unusual situations. In “Laurel Canyon,” she plays a famous record producer, a child of the ’60s, who has somehow produced a son who became a doctor. This son does not understand her values, and is embarrassed by her when he brings his girlfriend home. The girlfriend (Kate Beckinsale), an M.D. working on a Ph.D. in the reproductive genomics of the fruitfly, becomes quite curious about the mother’s lifestyle, which includes weed, booze, music, and sex in the swimming pool of the Laurel Canyon home at which they’re all temporarily staying. Her curiosity becomes strong enough to provoke a sex scene between mom, mom’s younger rock musician boyfriend, and son’s girlfriend. Have you ever heard this line uttered by a mother in a movie before: “I’m just not going to screw my son’s girlfriend. There’s a place to draw the line..” or words to that effect. Thanks, mom.

Interestingly enough, the first comment from the audience at the end of “Love and Diane” was from a man who said he was disappointed that the film depicted family dysfunction and drug addiction as only the province of the lower classes. I hope he was at “Laurel Canyon” to see that at least one movie extends dysfunction way up the socioeconomic scale.

The film’s about the expansion of horizons and the clash of values. MacDormand looks great: vibrant, intelligent, cynical, and sexy. Unfortunately, the screenplay is not as good as she is, nor are the two young actors she plays against. It’s pretty slick, commercial, and predictable, which is sad since Lisa Chodolenko’s first film, “High Art,” was pretty original.

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