Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Gerard Funk, Amanda Brooks, Gus Van Sant
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scenes and Nudity)
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheCanyonsITA
Opening Day: 22 May 2014
Synopsis: Notorious writer Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) and acclaimed director Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver and director of American Gigolo) join forces for this explicitly erotic thriller about youth, glamour, sex and surveillance. Manipulative and scheming young movie producer Christian (adult film star James Deen) makes films to keep his trust fund intact, while his actress girlfriend and bored plaything, Tara (Lindsay Lohan), hides a passionate affair with an actor from her past. When Christian becomes aware of Tara's infidelity, the young Angelenos are thrust into a violent, sexually-charged tour through the dark side of human nature.
Lindsay Lohan is probably the only reason how this pretentious melodrama got made in the first place. Once a promising Disney star whose ‘The Parent Trap’ remains one of the best teenage performances we have seen, Lohan has since become a punch line for a generation, a real example of just how fame and celebrity at too young an age can screw up such a talented person’s life. It makes somewhat sense therefore that Lohan’s attempt at a big-screen comeback would be in a tale about young, vapid and sexually insatiable Z-listers in Hollywood, the parallels with that of her own life perhaps not entirely coincidental.
To be fair to Lohan, the movie is indeed better with her presence than if without. Despite looking bored and distracted at times, Lohan reveals a vulnerability to her character Tara - though one suspects that the tired, worn-out look on her face isn’t just about playing Tara. Lohan tries even to go as far as to follow the undressed code of the film - topless for women, full frontal for men - but that bit of skin she does show makes you feel even sadder for an actress who has since become the stuff of instant tabloid fodder than about any real showmanship.
Lohan however isn’t the reason why you should stay away from this Paul Schrader film. The once brilliant screenwriter of such classic dramas as ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Taxi Driver’, Schrader assumes the helm of a script by Bret Easton Ellis, the novelist of ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Less than Zero’ who finds stories in spoiled, morally bankrupt people with too much money on their hands. Though both have penchants for subjects such as pornography and prostutition built around existential loners on the margins, their first collaboration together is no more than glossed-up soap opera nonsense that hardly rings anything more than a false note.
It isn’t just about the fact that the characters are unlikeable; Ellis just doesn’t dig deep enough into his characters, so much so that their actions and motivations lack plausibility. Indeed, it’s not entirely clear just what drives the decadent trust-funder Christian (adult star James Deen), who’s attached to Tara, likes to find participants to join himself and Tara in multi-party sex, and then goes effin’ jealous when he suspects that Tara may be seeing someone behind his back. Neither is it clear just why this someone, a struggling actor named Ryan (Nolan Funk), proclaims that he is so in love and obsessed with Tara and yet is also having sex with Christian’s voluptuous yoga teacher Cynthia (Tenille Houston).
Without any compelling characters, the misanthropic behaviour makes even less sense, so whether is it lying, cheating, spying, indulging in mind games, or even psychotic behaviour, the results are merely prurient and dour. In between, Schrader intersperses his characters’ morally repugnant ways with shots of Sunset Boulevard that tries to say something about the insipid nature of the people which inhabit the strip, but there’s only so much depth that one can try to find in a bad pulpy novel. There is apparently some metaphor about the death of cinema that the shots of shuttered movie theatres which bookend the movie is meant to say; yet again, the significance of it is likely to be lost in a movie which can’t quite figure out just what it wants to say as well.
And like we said right at the start, ‘The Canyons’ exists only because of Lohan. For the uninitiated, it was also funded as a micro-budget under a Kickstarter campaign, though those who gave money for it to be born will hardly find any justification for its existence. It exists best as a reminder of just how far Lohan has fallen, and there is a real sadness watching the actress looking every mile she has driven herself etched on the lines of her face. The movie? Well, let’s just say it belongs in the canyons.
(Vapid and pointless like the lives of the characters it tries to portray, this attempt at a psychological melodrama is only good if you haven’t gotten enough of Lindsay Lohan in the tabloids)
Review by Gabriel Chong