Metascore
61

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. 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."
  2. Reconfirms the filmmaker's talent as an acutely observant chronicler of upscale bohemian subcultures.
  3. 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.
  4. A romantic comedy of grace notes and mini-epiphanies -- mini, that is, except for Ms. McDormand's Jane, who is memorable to the max.
  5. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    75
    Compelling tale of a free-spirited record producer, played with perfect pitch by Frances McDormand.
  6. 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.
  7. Thanks to the performances and the general looseness of the script, the movie is more appealing than it has any business being.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. McDormand has never been better, but all the performances are interestingly nuanced, including Natascha McElhone's as one of Bale's fellow psychiatric interns.
  11. 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.
  12. Cholodenko takes us inside a bohemian hive where everyone buzzes around the Queen Bee. McDormand is superb. Likewise Bale and Nivola.
  13. The cast is as likable as it is improbable (especially Nivola, who all but steals the movie as the charmingly decadent rocker).
  14. 63
    The performers are all keen at expressing different variations on uptightness and with-itness. And McDormand is sensational.
  15. Authenticity is strangely lacking in Laurel Canyon, although Cholodenko’s exquisite eye for framing remains uncorrupted. Laurel Canyon is often visually captivating.
  16. 80
    This is a plum of a part, and McDormand gorges herself. [10 March 2003, p. 94]
  17. Frances McDormand plays the record-producing mother with the nativity that talent makes possible.
  18. 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.
  19. 75
    Laurel Canyon itself feels musical: languid, rich in color and light, and deliciously sensual.

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