thu 09/07/2020

The Canyons | reviews, news & interviews

The Canyons

The Canyons

The writers of American Psycho and Taxi Driver drop into Hollywood's basement with Lindsay Lohan

Pretty vacant: Christian (James Deen) and Tara (Lindsay Lohan) do lunch

“At the time, I was bored, and I needed something to do,” Tara (Lindsay Lohan) says, trying to explain her participation in a film. “And now…I’m looking for something else to do.” And she gives a small, bottomless sigh. The notorious, bedevilled Lohan is the hot spot in Paul Schrader and Brett Easton Ellis’s chilly nightmare about love in Hollywood. Her Marilyn-style on-set unreliability led every pre-release story about their experiment in micro-budget, Kickstarter-funded cinema.

Lohan’s recent homage to Marilyn’s last, nude photo-shoot aged 36 is here followed by a film in which the 27-year-old former child star’s face recalls Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, and her performance suggests the blowsy, bitter personality of Elizabeth Taylor (a recent Lohan TV role). She looks used and experienced beyond her years. And as the pilotless tailspin of her life continues, the spectre of Marilyn’s end hangs over her. For all these reasons, her performance in The Canyons burns.

Everything else here is cold and empty. Lohan’s Tara is the kept girlfriend of Christian (porn star James Deen), whose source of wealth for his luxury apartment in the Canyons outside LA is vague, and is producing some sort of film, in which Tara has, like Lohan in The Canyons, a theoretical executive role. She has cast struggling actor-bartender Ryan (Glee’s Nolan Funk), her ex- and now current lover, unbeknownst to his new girlfriend Gina (Amanda Brooks) or the psychotically controlling Christian (who is also seeing a pneumatic blonde yoga instructor on the side).

The infidelities in these multiple love triangles climax in a murder, not a crime of passion, but the result of a world in which so little matters. Dialogue is broken by mobile phone bleeps. Scenes are short and inconclusive. The luxury apartments borrowed to pad out the micro-budget look like empty sets, wandered through by isolated, numb actors in a ghost Los Angeles. Deen, new to acting outside of hundreds of porn films, gives Christian a wandering, bland charisma that keeps you watching. The Canyons’ casting makes it a Hollywood purgatory, where actors not quite good enough to make it hate and fuck each other. The not especially explicit threesomes Christian organises and Tara goes along with, pictured above and below, shot in sparking green light as if through a druggy haze, look like Lohan participating in a porn film, watchfully and knowingly, to keep her name in the papers.

The Canyons ultimately recalls a straight-to-video erotic thriller from the Eighties or Nineties, made by major talents now struggling to get a conventional gig, but ideally suited to the material. Ellis’s interest in intense superficiality and blankness amongst yuppies and models in his novels exaggerates that side of Schrader’s studies, as writer and director, of repression and wildness. Schrader needed Scorsese to give his scripts feverish appeal. But recent films he’s directed since being exiled to Hollywood’s margins are amongst his most interesting - The Canyons (a grungy stylistic twin to his American Gigolo anyway) included.

Lohan’s enduring talent, charisma, and an impatient anger that is unleashed more than performed, meanwhile remind you her destruction would be a tragedy. Robert Downey Jr.’s harnessed mania, not Marilyn, could be her role model. Maybe it’s not even acting, but a helpless Method dive into herself. Sometimes those are the best stars.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Canyons


The notorious, bedevilled Lohan is the hot spot in Paul Schrader and Brett Easton Ellis’s chilly nightmare


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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