Welcome to L.A.
December 9, 2011
Alan Rudolph got his start in the filmmaking business as a protégé of the great Robert Altman, working as an assistant director on a few of his films. He was clearly influenced by the veteran director in his own work, which featured ensemble casts often populated by eccentric characters. Born in Los Angeles, Welcome to L.A. (1976) was a cinematic love letter to his hometown.
Nona Bruce (Hutton) is a professional photographer and one day she takes a picture of a lonely woman by the name of Karen Hood (Chaplin), a lonely housewife. Linda Murray (Spacek) is a housekeeper that works for Ann Goode (Kellerman), a realtor, and is having an affair with Karen’s husband, Ken (Keitel), a businessman who doesn’t love her anymore. Carroll Barber (Carradine) is a vagabond musician (i.e. a Tom Waits wannabe) who crosses paths with several of the characters in the film, inexplicably bedding most of the women he encounters despite his bemused, often emotionless attitude. Eric Woods (played by real-life recording artist Richard Baskin) is recording an album written by Barber and the songs act as a Greek Chorus commenting on key moments during the course of the film. Too bad they sound like glorified elevator music guaranteed to lull you to sleep, much like this film.
Welcome to L.A. follows a large ensemble of character in one city that is reminiscent of Altman’s Nashville (1975), an obvious influence on this one. Rudolph and his talented cast do an excellent job of capturing how people converse with each other in such a believable way that it often feels like we’re eavesdropping on their personal lives. While one admires Rudolph’s attempt to dramatize the day-to-day lives of a diverse cast of characters, your interest really hinges on how fascinating you find their lives. The eclectic cast of actors he has assembled certainly do their best with the material they’re given but by the end of the film you find yourself wondering, what was the point? I can see what Rudolph is aiming for with Welcome to L.A. – that the spread out geography of the city isolates everyone and despite the dense population a lot of people feel alone. So, the characters in this film try to connect with one another, through friendships or love affairs. However, they aren’t all that interesting and neither are their problems.