Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 36
  2. Negative: 2 out of 36
Watch On
  1. A romantic comedy of grace notes and mini-epiphanies -- mini, that is, except for Ms. McDormand's Jane, who is memorable to the max.
  2. Cholodenko takes us inside a bohemian hive where everyone buzzes around the Queen Bee. McDormand is superb. Likewise Bale and Nivola.
  3. Reconfirms the filmmaker's talent as an acutely observant chronicler of upscale bohemian subcultures.
  4. Frances McDormand plays the record-producing mother with the nativity that talent makes possible.
  5. McDormand has never been better, but all the performances are interestingly nuanced, including Natascha McElhone's as one of Bale's fellow psychiatric interns.
  6. 80
    This is a plum of a part, and McDormand gorges herself. [10 March 2003, p. 94]
  7. 80
    Cholodenko and her actors pull it off; the performances here are like a wary ballet, ruled as much by the mysterious magnetic attractions and repulsions these characters feel for one another as by anything so dully explicable as psychology or standard rules of social conduct.
  8. The story of Laurel Canyon doesn't ultimately live up to the technical polish Cholodenko brings to it, but it's worth a visit if you want to check out the latest emotional vibes emanating from the Hollywood Hills.
  9. 75
    Bale, one of the most intriguing actors of his generation, plays a young man rebelling against his liberal upbringing with a mix of bemusement and lost-puppy anguish, making this film as much about mothers and sons as struggling couples.
  10. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Compelling tale of a free-spirited record producer, played with perfect pitch by Frances McDormand.
  11. Ultimately lacks the narrative muscle that could have made it great. But it does have McDormand, who is great in this, her best showcase since "Fargo."
  12. 75
    Laurel Canyon itself feels musical: languid, rich in color and light, and deliciously sensual.
  13. Thanks to the performances and the general looseness of the script, the movie is more appealing than it has any business being.
  14. In its milieu and parallel story lines, the film suggests a bantam "Short Cuts," but for better and for worse, this is Altman without the razored edge. Cholodenko elicits appealing performances from her ensemble, but she never pushes their characters anywhere there isn't an easy out.
  15. The cast is as likable as it is improbable (especially Nivola, who all but steals the movie as the charmingly decadent rocker).
  16. Authenticity is strangely lacking in Laurel Canyon, although Cholodenko’s exquisite eye for framing remains uncorrupted. Laurel Canyon is often visually captivating.
  17. 63
    Frances McDormand rescues this role from the throes of cliche. It's as though drippy dialogue and sappy rock were a small price to pay for a part that lets her flash her breasts, get stoned, and join in a three-way.
  18. 63
    The performers are all keen at expressing different variations on uptightness and with-itness. And McDormand is sensational.
  19. Inasmuch as Cholodenko has an agenda in her two movies so far -- what appears to be a lesbian-positive theme of openness to experimentation and its accompanying emotional costs -- she's found a model in McDormand's portrayal of Jane.
  20. 60
    McDormand is the best thing about Laurel Canyon. She's also the most unfortunate victim of a film that seems unable or unwilling to give even its most intriguing and compulsively watchable character her due.
  21. 60
    The spectacle of pretty people floating languidly across the screen notwithstanding, Laurel Canyon is short on conviction and long on contrivance. McDormand, however, has a ball.
  22. Laurel Canyon lacks the sense of risk that "High Art" had, and in doing so, emasculates its apparent protagonist in Sam.
  23. 60
    The story is less a sustained narrative than a series of scenes. But personal dynamics are the main event, and McDormand's powerhouse performance alone compensates for many minor deficiencies.
  24. 60
    Occasionally, the film invites a more dynamic touch than the careful slowness Cholodenko carries over from "High Art." But that same care gives the movie a seductive quality that would have been lost in a more hurried approach.
  25. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Like a late ’60s satire played embarrassingly seriously.
  26. The characters are tedious, as are the fussy performances of Bale and Beckinsale. Everything good in this rock & roll fantasy belongs to the sexy, worldly-wise McDormand, who makes Jane ripe, real, and irresistible.
  27. 50
    Not a successful movie--it's too stilted and pre-programmed to come alive--but in the center of it McDormand occupies a place for her character and makes that place into a brilliant movie of its own.
  28. An underdevelopment of a bad idea that is entertaining, so far as it is, because of McDormand's totally unselfconscious performance. This wonderful actress is never less than interesting, and even as a caricature of a stereotype, she's fun to watch.
  29. 50
    Rife with predictability and lacking any originality whatsoever, the lackluster Laurel Canyon demonstrates about as much depth as one of Ian's pop songs.
  30. Frances McDormand deserves much better than Lisa Cholodenko’s flat-footed Laurel Canyon...McDormand alone makes the picture worth seeing: Her character is a rash combo of steel and dissolution and regret.
  31. 50
    Worst of all is the movie's finale, a noble attempt to avoid an overly-pat conclusion that strays too far in the opposite direction.
  32. Reviewed by: Mark Olsen
    Cholodenko's new film relies on easy caricature over true character such that the film fails to build emotional momentum or resonance.
  33. Cholodenko doesn't put much activity into her languid movies. Watching them is like sagging back on the couch at a party that has run past 2 a.m., knowing we can leave -- surely nothing exciting is yet to happen? -- but basking lazily in the pleasant atmosphere of half-intoxicated flirtations.
  34. 50
    The plot is straightforward and predictable to the point of painfulness.
  35. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    The dramatic trajectory is frightfully obvious, the characters tediously one-dimensional, the dialogue banal.
  36. 25
    A clumsy package of clichés.

There are no user reviews yet.