DIRECTOR: Paul Schrader
CAST: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston
Far from the renegade, boundary-pushing, sexually explicit sensation that its makers have been suggesting, The Canyons is a lame, one-dimensional and ultimately dreary look at peripheral Hollywood types not worth anyone’s time either onscreen or in real life.
Skanky side of LA expert Bret Easton Ellis employs nothing but melodramatic clichés in relating the manipulative and duplicitous doings of characters altogether interchangeable in their tediousness and lack of distinct personalities, while Paul Schrader had far more to work with in his last foray into scum-bucket Hollywood behavior in the excellent Auto Focus.
And any expectations of explicit sex fostered by the presence of porn star James Deen and press reports of top-billed Lindsay Lohan getting down for real here are not even approached, much less fulfilled, as there’s nothing beyond standard R-rated talk and nudity on hand. It’s this sort of non-entertaining, pseudo-arty film that partially is responsible for the shuttered and abandoned movie theaters that symbolically adorn the opening and closing credits.
After its Sunday world premiere at a special Lincoln Center screening, the IFC release opened in early August in the US and took a bow internationally at the Venice Film Festival.
“Nobody has a private life anymore,” Deen’s rich pretty boy Christian aptly points out early on to his live-in actress girlfriend Tara (Lohan). But then he spends the rest of the film’s running time essentially proving the contrary, as he obsessively and twistedly endeavors to pry out the truth about Tara’s past and present relationship with aspiring actor Ryan (Nolan Funk), another gym-toned clone who’s dating Christian’s assistant Gina (Amanda Brooks) and is supposed to play the lead in a low-budget film Christian is backing.
Given how open everyone here is about sex and their various relationships, not to mention Christian’s swinger ways, the neurotic hang-ups he has about the imagined threat posed by Ryan hold no dramatic water.
Otherwise blasé, conceited and narcissistic, this trust fund baby with a stunning hillside Malibu pad is a pale brother to Ellis’ totemic character of the 1990s, Patrick Bateman, in American Psycho, and both feel like cousins of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley.
In this case, make that boring cousins. The blandly good-looking, immaculately groomed Christian mostly assumes a posture of nonchalant petulance, affecting not to care about anything beneath the surface until it’s time to manipulate those in his small circle.
In fact, he’s right to suspect something; having been an item four years previously, Ryan and Tara have recently resumed their affair, but Tara wants to back out. Perhaps she’d reconsider if she knew Christian was still getting it off with voluptuous yoga teacher Cynthia (Tenille Houston), but no one seems to care about that much. The audience certainly won’t.
The vapidity of the characters isn’t surprising coming from Ellis, but you’d think that Schrader would at this point in his career want to devote his attention to more interesting members of the film-making community than these nonentities and to offer a more complex and nuanced take on the town’s habitues.
Sure, there are dull and vapid pretty young things all over the place.
But these bozos aren’t lively enough to get cast on reality TV, much less be the focus of written drama where some emotional dimensions are normally expected. – Hollywood Reporter