Swimming Pool

Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale. Written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Running Time: 101 mins
Rated: R

Laurel Canyon is a street in the Los Angeles hills. Unfortunately, this film set in such a mountainous location falls flat quickly.

On Laurel Canyon lives Jane (Command) a pot-smoking, record producing, refugee from the late sixties. Her greatest souvenir from the days of free love is her son Sam (Bale), her direct opposite. Sam is a graduate of
Harvard Medical School, and comes to Los Angeles to take up a job in a psychiatry programme. His girlfriend, Alex (Beckinsale), comes with him. Alex is no ordinary woman. From a wealthy family, she topped her class
at Harvard Medical School and is now finishing off a PhD on the chromosomes of flies. Against Sam's better judgement they move in with Jane who lives with the rock world's next-best-thing, Ian (Alessandro Nivola). Alex enjoys getting into Jane's world of drugs, sex and rock'n roll. Sam ends up the one needing help to sort out who he is, and what he wants.

Don't be fooled by the star-studded cast. Not even the combined talents of Oscar winner, Frances McDormand and the fine young Brits, Beckinsale and Bale, can say this film from being slow, dull and bleak.

It's always a risk directing one's own script, and Lisa Cholodenko falls into all the traps. The script is too wordy, the camera dwells on obscure things, which are meant to mean something, but only serve as a distraction. There are so many conflicts going on between the five principal players, upon which we are meant to focus our attention, that we just give up. Then, by the end, the pay-off is so weak we're pleased we didn't put in the effort.

The language and sex scenes will offend some viewers, but the boredom will get to everyone!

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.