Young, straight-laced couple Alex (Kate Beckinsale) and Sam (Christian Bale) find their relationship put to the test when they spend a few weeks in LA with Sam's rock chick mother (Frances McDormand).
This relationship drama of repressed East Coast academic over-achiever types ravished by West Coast libertines is like a late '60s satire played embarrassingly seriously.
Unlike Cholodenko's cooler High Art, it's hard to believe a word of it, so artificial are the situation, seductions, conversations and casting (Brits play Americans, Americans play Brits, while Natascha McElhone's sensual psychiatrist is peculiarly Israeli).
Wherever she's from, Bale's Sam would be as smart as he's cracked up to be by running off with her and leaving Beckinsale's dippy geneticist to shrivel in a hot tub threesome with Mommy and her toy boy.
While Bale and Beckinsale are good as the repressed pair who find their eyes opened to a world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, McDormand steals the show as the fortysomething music producer having an affair with a young singer.
The soundtrack is also absurd, with supposedly cutting edge rock so dull it belongs in Fame Academy. There are, however, very amusing flashes which indicate how much more engaging it could have been if approached directly as a comedy of manners and clashing values.
The movie taking place around her is unbelievable, but McDormand's performance as a free-spirited rock chick that makes this predictable movie worth watching as she creates an exasperating, irreverent sexpot 180 degrees from her protective mom in Almost Famous.