Laurel Canyon

Mandy and I went to the Lumiere on California Street to see the movie Laurel Canyon today. This was our first time at the theatre, and even thought the carpet was a little worn and the screen a little small, I must show appreciation to the smaller venues that are still interested in playing independent movies. The Landmark chain in San Francisco is excellent in this regard.

Laurel Canyon, the place not the movie, is a beautiful area flirting with the reality of Los Angeles. Inhabited in different decades by different groups of people with one thing in common, the desire to not be weighed down by the concerns of the standard la fare. Having driven around the canyon, it doesn’t have the separation I envision it once had in the 60’s and 70’s, but you can’t help but feel the gentle nudge away from the city’s vibe by the geography.

The young girlfriend/PhD student Alex, played by Kate Beckinsale, probably faces the most important moral questions in the movie and these center around the decisions of the paths we choose to take in life. Teetering at the brink of finishing her dissertation on the genomics of fruit fly reproduction (fascinating, really), she is submersed in an environment that makes her question the strict and orderly progression of her life. She is the type of person who has had it all figured out, only to find that everything can and will be turned right upside down without any warning. And it does. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll – as the saying goes.

Alex’s boyfriend’s mother is a frustrated, crispy record producer trying to finish the challenge that is recording an album. Frances McDormand really takes the part and owns it. As much as she was the protective, provident mother in Almost Famous, she is now indulgent and relaxed and shows you the other side of parenting. Between the mother and the band, Alex is introduced to options she has probably only heard rumors about and, in the most childlike curiosity, jumps in head first and holds her breath most of the movie, trying to satiate and justify her choices to this point.

And if there is anything to take away from the movie, I believe it to be this: that life is to be lived and enjoyed and partaken of but there is not one correct interpretation of “the life” to be led. Enjoy the differences, celebrate the people who show up in your life, and focus on how you can add value to everyone’s life, including your own.

Maybe I didn’t get all of that from the movie, but I think it’s fairly decent advice all the same.

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