2013 - 99 minutes
Directed by: Paul Schrader
Written by: Bret Easton Ellis
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Gerard Funk, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston
A photo montage of decrepit, shuttered cinemas plays behind the opening credits of “The Canyons.” If the filmmakers are making some sort of statement on Hollywood and the death of valuable films they’ve certainly succeeded. Not with clever allegory, mind you, but with the all-too-real shockingly horrible quality of the movie they made.
A 100-minute slideshow of rundown theaters may have been more entertaining than what’s strung together on the screen. Certainly more interesting. Perhaps this is a manifest display of personal displeasure for an industry that has left the filmmakers behind.
Screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis sticks to some common themes from his other works, which include the novels “Less than Zero” and “American Psycho,” each turned into good films. We have privileged or bored (or both) 20-somethings who don't know what to do with themselves hurling down a path of self-destruction. But in “The Canyons” there’s nothing to care about. There’s no portrait of addiction or mental illness, only empty talk and petulance masked as erotic posturing.
Director Paul Schrader has gone from penning classics like “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and directing “American Gigolo” to this. I’d probably be mad by this point, too. This has to be considered the low point of a filmography that’s had a pretty steady trajectory after the glory days.
Nobody comes out unscathed in this mess. The story has young trust-fund-rich producer Christian (porn star James Deen) lording over his girlfriend Tara (Lindsay Lohan); setting up sexual interludes with internet strangers. Christian has an assistant Gina (Amanda Brooks), who has a struggling actor boyfriend Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk) and as a favor, Christian hires Ryan to be in a low-rent slasher film he’s making. Got all that? Doesn’t matter and it gets worse.
Unbeknownst to Christian, Ryan and Tara used to be in a relationship and are carrying on a sexual affair. There is also a yoga instructor (Tenille Houston) that Christian is sleeping with, but she also has a history with Ryan. Such a small world. And small-minded. Secrets are revealed, Christian’s paranoia becomes enveloping and the shamelessness of all the characters comes home to roost in a not very shocking or meaningful climax.
The final shot that is supposed to be a poignant shock inspires laughter at best or, more likely, a mild eye roll. Unfortunately, this is the only real unintentionally entertaining bit of the film and you have to wait an hour and forty minutes to get there. At no other point is “The Canyons” enjoyable on an ironic or any other manner. It's just plain bad and an excruciating bore.
Deen’s delivery is a different kind of wooden than the films he’s known for, which is offset by Lohan’s desperate attempts to bring more drama to the drab happenings. At least she’s trying, though way too hard. “The Canyons” doesn’t deserve anyone’s effort, especially when it comes to watching it.
© 2013 by Blake Crane