Laurel Canyon

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Running time: 104 minutes
Language: English
Open April 3
[See Japan Times movie listings]

Used to be, not so long ago, that the sure-fire way to rebel against your parents, teachers and other adult authority was as simple as the three chords it took to play in a garage band: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. But as the boomer generation went on to become parents themselves, things got more complicated. Sure, some parents did the Bill Clinton thing, pretending that they never inhaled or listened to Foghat, but there were those unrepentant children of the '60s and '70s who went right on doing what they were doing, living the "alternative lifestyle."

Pity, dear reader, the child who has to figure out how to rebel against a mother whose idea of good parenting is to teach that proper manners require the bong be passed to guests first.

Such is the dilemma of Sam, a twentysomething medical-school graduate played by Christian Bale in "Laurel Canyon." While many people would be envious of having a mom who's a rich and famous rock-music producer and totally cool, Sam sees only an irresponsible parent who refuses to grow up. Sam has fled his mother, Jane (Frances McDormand, playing the polar opposite of her role in "Almost Famous"), and the West Coast permissiveness that she's part of for the tight-ass, work-ethic preppiness of an East Coast Ivy League education. He's got a doctorate in psychiatry and a W.A.S.P. fiance named Alex (Kate Beckinsale, in a perfect bit of typecasting); everything would be fine except that Sam has to return to California for his internship in the psychiatric ward of an L.A. hospital.