(Page 2 of 2)
Director Paul Schrader, who wrote Scorsese’s Taxi Driver way back in the day and also directed the ’80s touchstone film American Gigolo, hasn’t made a feature in five years. The Canyons is his desperate attempt at a comeback, and when he opens the picture with a lingering montage of abandoned movie theaters, you can feel him signaling his glum feelings about the current state of the Hollywood film industry.
The star is Lindsay Lohan, and…well, you know about her. She’s a good actor who has chosen to obscure her talent -- and trash her employability -- in a haze of tabloid chaos. Judging by a much-discussed early set-visit report by New York Times writer Stephen Rodrick, Lohan was a major pain in the butt on this film, and you can’t help flinching at the weathered state of her face (and her sometimes-bizarre makeup choices). But she’s committed to creating a character here, and in one scene toward the end of the movie -- when the lost woman she plays is being viciously humiliated by her boyfriend -- we’re reminded of how good this lost woman can be.
The movie opens with a long, dull bar scene that threatens to capsize the film before it even gets started. Here we meet the characters: Tara (Lohan), a model-actress-whatever who has sold out for a squalid life of luxury with Christian (Deen), an icy creep who forces her to have sex with strangers while he records the action on his iPhone; and Ryan (Nolan Funk), the ex-boyfriend Tara dumped, who’s still torching for her but is meanwhile biding his time in a duplicitous relationship with Christian’s assistant, Gina (Amanda Brooks). Tara and Ryan have lately reconnected and started sneaking nooners, and Christian is growing suspicious -- which is the last thing anyone would want this violent sociopath to be.
Deen seems right at home in this micro-budget quickie (in his own world, he made 56 porn films last year alone). By all accounts an easygoing nice guy in real life, he gives a spare, chilling performance as a man who treats everybody like dirt and isn’t above doing anything to get his way. He’s also naturally at ease with the film’s nudity, of which there’s quite a bit, both male and female. But the centerpiece sex scene -- a four-way with Christian and Tara and another couple in which Tara finally takes control -- isn’t entirely gratuitous.
Lohan navigates the movie’s wall-to-wall sleaze with considerable energy, and she’s sometimes quite affecting. But echoes of her outside life keep glinting through. When she delivers a line like “When was the last time you saw a movie in a theater?,” she’s projecting for Schrader and Ellis. But when she says “I need someone to take care of me,” she could be doing some signaling of her own.
Find this and hundreds of other interesting movies at the Reason Shop, powered by Amazon.