Sweet, wrinkly and not particularly substantial, Laurel Canyon is a sun-dried California raisin of a drama that's fun to munch on but not particularly substantial.
Set in Laurel Canyon, the self-proclaimed artists' quarter of California - where painters paint, writers write, and, judging by this film at least, Britpop acts splash around in the swimming pools - Lisa Cholodenko's film is a paean to the joys of West Coast hedonism.
"FRUIT FLY REPRODUCTION"
When Sam (Christian Bale) and his uptight fiancée Alex (Kate Beckinsale) arrange to move into Sam's mother's California house, they arrive to find it in uproar. Jane (Frances McDormand) is running late producing her latest album for a new rock band, which means this conservative, Harvard-educated couple are thrown into a world of chaos.
Supposedly finishing her doctoral dissertation on fruit fly reproduction, Alex is drawn to the tempestuous freedom surrounding the recording studio, discovering that she has a taste for dope smoking afternoons and three-way pool romps. Meanwhile, Sam begins his training as a hospital psychiatrist and falls for a colleague (Natascha McElhone). It's a relationship destined for total meltdown.
As the repressed couple who survey the rock'n'roll excesses of this California Dreaming lifestyle with a mixture of fascination and buttoned down distaste, Bale and Beckinsale are on fine form (although the latter's gangly beauty is so close to verging on outright anorexia that it's difficult not to throw popcorn and shout "Eat, woman!" every time she appears onscreen).
Ultimately, though, it's McDormand's movie. Styling dysfunctional Jane as a middle-aged cross between Joni Mitchell and the third Banger Sister, McDormand lounges around in leather trousers, bedding men half her age without ever feeling the need to demonise her character's outdated hippie idealism.
In a by-the-numbers relationship drama that has little to say and no particularly interesting ways of saying it, the effervescent McDormand proves once again that she's one of Hollywood's finest - and refreshingly underexposed - actresses.