In the shallow, california-dreamin' indie Laurel Canyon, Sam (Christian Bale) is the angry adult son of a La-La-holic: His mother, Jane (Frances McDormand), is a Los Angeles record producer as famous for free-swingin' sex life (of which he's a by-product) as she is for her musical hits, and Sam has never forgiven her for screwing around when she should have been nurturing. To compensate, the son has become a crashing bore -- a whining, humorless psychiatrist-in-training. His soul mate and fiancée, Alex (Kate Beckinsale), is a petulant control freak even more irritating than he is.
The two uptight downers find themselves parked at Jane's sprawling house in the lush, bohemian L.A. neighborhood that gives writer-director Lisa Cholodenko's movie its name -- they're Brad and Janet in a ''Rocky Horror Picture Show'' all their own, their lives doing a time warp with the stoned musicians sprawled around the joint. And still 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.