Laurel Canyon (Lisa Cholodenko, 2002)
I thought Cholodenko's first film, 1998's High Art, was quite good, aside from its Indie Film 101 ending, but this one has all the signs of a successful indie filmmaker getting a bigger budget for a follow-up and losing her way. The biggest problem to me was the gross miscasting of Kate Beckinsale as an M.D./Ph.D. student working on a dissertation about the genomes of fruit flys. No matter what, I cannot buy Kate Beckinsale as a science nerd. 18th century lady? Sure. Ass-kicking vampire hunter? No problem. Science nerd? Never going to happen. Cholodenko also fails to establish the central relationship between Beckinsale and Christian Bale, so it's hard to care if they stay together or not. The only saving grace is the brilliant Frances McDormand, who plays a record producer allegedly based loosely on Joni Mitchell. That's fine, except Cholodenko's music biz scenes have a really false ring to them. I bought that she understood the world of art photography in High Art; in this, everything just comes off as forced.