A strait-laced young psychiatrist (Christian Bale) and his prim fiancée (Kate Beckinsale) move to Los Angeles, where they live (reluctantly) with his record-producer mother (Frances McDormand), whose hippie lifestyle has never set too well with her son, and the mother’s rock-singer lover (Alessandro Nivola). Before long, the fiancée begins to enjoy the pot-smoking freedom of her future mother-in-law, and the son is drawn to an attractive co-worker (Natascha McElhone). Director Lisa Cholodenko’s script—with its theme of the unpredictable effect of Los Angeles on a couple of East Coast transplants—is reminiscent of Alison Lurie’s novel The Nowhere City
, but Cholodenko gives it a droll compassion all her own. The characters are fully dimensional, and the performances are perceptive and well-modulated.