Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Laurel Canyon

This movie challenges the stereotypical image of what a mother is with a woman who often behaves like she’s her son’s age and further turns the relationship around with a son who responds by acting as mature and controlled as possible. I don’t think Laurel Canyon qualifies as a chick flick because it addresses issues to which both sexes can relate. It is an intelligent, original movie, and it seems unfair that simply because it is directed by a woman and has emotional content that it should be labeled as a ‘chick flick,’ which feels negative and dismissive. There was, though, the similar pattern to other movies we’ve watched, in which the female protagonist is swept away by someone more romantically enticing than her intended, more corrrect but less interesting partner.

There is a clear role-reversal in Jane’s relationship with her son. Before the audience even sees Sam’s mother, Jane, he describes her as having a “developmental disorder.” Immediately something seems off – this comment is very much like something a parent would say about a child. Further interactions confirm the role reversal – later Sam is cleaning up glass and won’t let his mom help him. Maybe the reversal comes to complete fruition when Jane finally kisses her son’s girlfriend. However, while she clearly has been irresponsible as a mother throughout Sam’s life, Jane does start to try to reach out to her son. She offers her box seats to him and his girlfriend and tries to approach him about building a better relationship in a conversation near the end of the movie. Sam’s odd relationship with his mother is emphasized by the juxtaposition with his patient’s more typical relationship with his own mother, who doesn’t approve of his typically rebellious decisions. While Jane isn’t a conventional mother figure, Cholodenko includes indications that she does have some motherly qualities that Sam seems to miss: she understands Alex better than he does when she says “She must get lonely” working by herself and she shows some motherly concern for Alex when she offers her a health drink in the kitchen.

I liked how both of the forbidden relationships in the film were preceded by a near-accident on the road between the characters involved. It was an interesting way to foreshadow the problems they would create.


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