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Thursday, August 1, 2013


Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons
Courtesy of IFC Films
2013, 95 minutes
Rated R for strong sexual content including graphic nudity, language throughout, a bloody crime scene and brief drug use.

Review by Joshua Handler

Ever since the bizarre retro teaser trailer was released last year and the very long, detailed article about the film's production problems appeared in the New York Times in January, my curiosity about The Canyons was peaked.  When I saw Paul Schrader, director of American Gigolo and writer of Taxi Driver, was directing the film and Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho, was writing it, I was even more curious.  Then I saw Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen were cast.  What could have turned into a biting satire or a so-bad-it's-good movie turned into one of the worst films of 2013 thus far.  Almost everything about it is dull and unremarkable.

Schrader and Ellis want to shock the audience with extensive scenes of nudity and kinky sex scenes, but without originality, spark, or passion, there is nothing that makes these scenes remotely remarkable. If anything, they're boring.  Ellis' script is supposed to show how lifeless everyone in Hollywood is and how dull life is, but to make a good satire, the writer needs to put some bite into the screenplay and say something original.  We have heard this story and message so many times before that we don't need to hear it again.  The dialogue at times reminded me of The Room.  Additionally, the film has a misogynistic tone that's disgusting.

The film was shot on a $250,000 budget and it shows.  Much of it looks like a student film in the way that it tries to look better than its slim budget.  It tries so hard to be evocative with moody lighting, but it all just ends up looking stale and amateurish.  

Speaking of amateurish, the performances, save for Lohan's, are universally terrible.  James Deen looks like he is actually trying to act, but he has no nuance and always looks as if he is reading his lines and overacting to make up for what he lacks in subtlety.  Lohan, though, is fantastic.  Even at the young age of 27 (probably 26 when this was filmed), she already looks like a faded starlet.  Her hoarse voice and small presence gives gives her performance a certain vulnerability that made her fascinating to watch.  She isn't perfect (the stiff dialogue sometimes really hurts her delivery), but overall, she gives a strong performance that should turn some heads.

Overall, The Canyons is a really awful film that never should have seen the light of day.  It looks and sounds like it was made far too quickly and without care.  It should have been wilder, crazier, more biting, especially more biting since Ellis and Schrader were supposed to be making another, probably bigger, film when funding fell through.  This is the what came out of that situation.  If you like bad movies, Lindsay Lohan, or dull "satires", this will be the movie for you.


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