Sam (Christian Bale) has finished his psychology degree at Harvard Medical School and is now moving to California to complete his residency. His fiancée Alex (Kate Beckinsale) is moving with him. She is currently working on her dissertation in genomics.
They both come from entirely different backgrounds. We see a peek into what Alex’s family is like before they leave for California. Her parents are wealthy, stuffy, country club types. They don’t understand why Sam doesn’t stay in Massachusetts for his residency and why he didn’t choose to be a “real” doctor instead of a psychologist.
Sam’s mother, Jane (Frances McDormand), is a record producer. She is a laid back, pot smoking, says it like it is kind of person. She fit’s in perfectly with the rock bands that she produces for. Sam and Alex are going to be living in Jane’s house in Laurel Canyon while they are in California.
Unfortunately for them, there has been a slight change of plans. Jane is now going to be there too. As it turns out they are behind schedule on the album she is currently producing. Since her recording studio is located at the house that means she and the band will be working there. The singer also happens to be Jane’s new boyfriend, Ian (Alessandro Nivola).
Sam is absolutely mortified by this turn of events. He has been trying to distance himself from his mother’s lifestyle his entire life. It is also why he has worked so hard to become successful, to prove to himself he’s not a loser like a lot of people he met as he was growing up. Now in addition to having to introduce Alex to his mother for the first time (which he has been dreading), they will also be living with her.
Alex is at the house during the day, working on her dissertation while Sam is working at the hospital. Alex has always been very studious, driven and serious. She has never been exposed to this kind of lifestyle before and becomes intrigued by Jane, Ian and the other members of the band. She finds herself being drawn to the recording studio and ends up hanging out and even smoking pot, at the expense of her dissertation.
Sam is surprised and a bit concerned that Alex is spending so much time with his mother. Plus things become rather strained between them, as he becomes more involved in his new life at the hospital. He is now dealing with mentally ill patients and when he tries to talk to Alex about them, she doesn’t understand the intricacies of what he is talking about. He finds a new friend in second year resident, Sara (Natascha McElhone). We watch as Sam and Alex are being drawn apart from each other and into different worlds.
I found the story intriguing, particularly the relationship between Jane and Sam. You can tell that they have never related well as mother and son. Personality wise they couldn’t be more different. Looking back on their life together Jane remembers all the fun they had and Sam can only remember all the bad times (which often times were the same occasion, they just each saw it differently).
There were some wonderfully touching scenes between them. Both Christian and Frances did a fabulous job and had a great chemistry together. They made the relationship feel very real and you could sense the history between them.
I also liked the pairing of Jane and Ian. Although he is quite a bit younger than she is, you get the feeling he really understands her. Their relationship was both sweet and sexy. Alessandro and Frances were great together. I have yet to see Frances in a movie where I didn’t think she did an amazing job. She is truly a terrific actor.
This was the first movie I had ever seen Alessandro in. First off I thought he really was British, I was shocked to find out he was American (his accent was great). Yes, that is really him singing. He has a terrific voice and has been called upon to sing in other movies as well. Alessandro was a fabulous pick to play Ian. He did a phenomenal job of being the charming, sexy, introspective rock star. Oh, and he has the most gorgeous smile … cutest dimples ever.
Some of my favorite quotes:
Sam – “Uh, she’s really weird, Al.”
Alex – “I know honey. You told me that before.”
Sam – “I just wanna re-emphasize.”
Alex – “Well, we just hadn’t planned on a change of plan.”
Jane – “Well, who plans on a change of plan. I mean, that’d be sort of paranoid. Don’t you think?”
Sam – “She’s not used to being around people.”
Jane – “Wow, she must get lonely.”
Jane – “Alex, you don’t have to be polite with me. Polite isn’t my thing. I’m sure Sam told you that.”
Sam – “She was tired. She’s usually … more … uh … she’s usually different.”
Ian – “It’s gonna have texture. You know, like ooze. Sonic ooze.”
Jane – “I love a man who speaks his mind, even when it’s bullsh*t.”
Ian – “Can we just say how lovely Jane looks today. Can we just have a moment of appreciation for our sweet, lovely Jane.”
Ian – “You can keep working your tough girl thing Jane, but I know you’re madly in love with me.”
Jane – “That’s irrelevant.”
Ian – “You’re so polite Alex. It’s ok to leave the ivory tower and live a little.”
Ian – “Listen, I don’t know why you’re so fascinated with our sex life, but for the record, Jane’s an amazing shag.”
Ian – “Well, it’s not my f*ckin’ fault.”
I think it’s funny that Alessandro is from Boston, Massachusetts, but has a British accent in the film. Christian is from Wales and Kate is from England, they both have American accents. Natascha is also from England, but has an Israeli accent. The only main character using their real accent is Frances.
Following is additional information about the movie that contains spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read any further.
I loved the scenes with Sam and Wyatt (Rick Gonzalez). You could see that Sam was very good at his job and really cared about people. I especially enjoyed when he stood up to Wyatt’s mother and basically told her, you need to put your differences aside because your son’s life is in danger. They were powerful scenes and all the actors involved did a wonderful job.
The scene towards the end when Sam and Sara are in her car together was great. They are so attracted to each other and he is trying so hard to fight his urge to be with her. Christian is amazing in this scene; he plays the emotions perfectly.
I know some people hate when everything isn’t neatly wrapped up at the end of a movie. However, I really like that things were left open ended. We were just given a brief glimpse into the lives of these people and it only seems right that we are unsure where everyone is going to end up (or who they will end up with for that matter). They are all still a work in progress.