The Canyons (2013)


Blame it on Generation-Y. What else is new?

In modern-day L.A., Christian (James Deen) is living on top of the world. He’s good-looking; charming; rich; powerful; has a sexy girlfriend named Tara (Lindsay Lohan); screws around on her; and is able to bring more men and women to bed whenever he feels the need to spice up the love life. After a meeting the two have with Christian’s assistant (Amanda Brooks) and her boyfriend Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk), they all decide to get ready and make a movie. Whatever the hell the movie is about or what the purpose is, is totally irrelevant, all that matters is that they’re making a movie, and it gives them something to do. However, as time goes on, Christian begins to realize that there’s something a little strange going on between Tara and Ryan. He suspects them of cheating around on him, but he can’t be too sure. This is where Christian decides to take some charge in the matters and see what’s really cracking behind the closed doors.

Despite The New York Times article that focused on all of the behind-the-scenes problems this movie was having, there is more to this flick than just “Lindsay’s big comeback”. Yes, she does have a performance here that makes me recognize her talent once again, but that’s not all there is to this flick. See, many people are seeming to forget that this is a collaboration between non-other than director Paul Schrader and writer Bret Easton Ellis who, if you are familiar with their work already, know that these guys are some bleak, dark, and disturbing mofos. They don’t hold back, ever, and this movie seems like it could have been one of the best examples of two artists working in their prime. Ellis loves his dull, amoral characters that do nothing with their lives except evil and bad things; whereas Schrader loves showing the darker-side of the world that we think we know.

The Parent Trap was how long ago?
The Parent Trap was how long ago?

If you put this combo together, you’d think you have a total winner on your hands, but somehow, someway, it doesn’t mix perfectly like it should. At times it does, but not all of the time and that’s where the problem lies.

I can handle Ellis’ writing. Yes, he is purposefully dull with his style of writing, but it’s something that you have to expect going into this flick in order to not mind it as much. For me, I can handle it because I’ve read many of his books and know that the dude does not shy away from showing us the more unattractive sides of our society, as strange and weird as they may be. With this flick, he shows us all that he has at his disposal, but it doesn’t quite land anywhere. There’s plenty of nudity, some erotic sex-scenes, and much more talk about hanky-panky, but what does it all lead up to? Something here felt like it should have meant something deeper and more thought-provoking, and even though there are some interesting ideas that Ellis toys around with because he wants to and he can, not everything works like it should.

Take for instance, the message of the movie. I get what Schrader and Ellis were trying to say: The future of movies are doomed because young, uninterested, and snobby kids get involved with the business of film-making all because they have nothing else to do, and gives them a sense of meaning for their lives. With some of the shite I see almost each and every year, I wouldn’t throw this idea out as “total fiction”, but at the same time, I can’t help but think the message didn’t get across as well as it should, had there been less of a satirical-approach to it. And I don’t mean “satirical-approach” in the way that this is movie is funny, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s drop-dead serious about the subject it’s discussing, the people it’s pointing the finger at, and what it’s all supposed to mean to us, but it also feels like Ellis plays around too much, and doesn’t get to the bottom of this material. He definitely touches it, but pulls back once he gets too close because he wants to give us as much Lohan-boob, as humanly possible.

And trust me, I’m all for a little bit of “Lohan-boob”, but I also want more material and substance to work with, just to round it all out.

"You got my text saying that this was a nice dinner, right?"
“You got my text saying that this was a nice dinner, right?”

Speaking of Lindsay Lohan, despite her being a diva on the set and demanding a bit more than she could possibly chew, the girl does a great job with a role that could have been failed by any other actress out there, all because it seems like Lohan herself is as empty and dry as the character she’s portraying. Lohan’s been awaiting her comeback for awhile now and even though I do not think that this will mark it, she shows signs that she still has the talent to make any character of hers work, as unlikable and painfully boring as they may be. On paper, Tara is just another cookie-cutter character that screws around, snobbish, and gets whatever she wants, however she wants it, yet, Lohan makes her slightly sympathetic, especially once all hell breaks loose within this plot. She does an awful lot of crying here that’s willing to make any Julliard-grad throw their hands in the air, but she never over-does it, nor does she over-do anything else here. She’s mean when she wants to be, sweet when she can find the momentum to be that way, and also show a bit of vulnerability if she has it in her. Not a perfect performance, and that’s mainly because the script does seem to fail her at times, but Lohan shows us that she’s still got the milk to keep her career going, she just has to stray away from the funky stuff on the side.

As for her co-star, porn-star James Deen is actually quite impressive in his first leading-role in an actual, scripted movie. Granted, the dude’s been in plenty movies before this, but they’ve all concerned him using the “O face” more than a dozen times, and even more shots of his dick, so I think it’s safe to say that this is his “feature film debut”, despite it not being his first leading a film. Anyway, Deen is actually good with Ellis’ script because it seems like he knows the type of character that he’s playing, what he has to get across, and what he has to do to make his presence known. Some lines come off a bit jumpy and awkward, as if Deen himself wasn’t quite sure on what tone certain lines were supposed to be said in, but for a guy who’s most known for showing his junk rather than his ability to carry a film; I gotta give it to him. I highly doubt that he’ll be getting more movie roles after this, but if in the future, I see his name attached to some sort of project, I won’t close my eyes in fear. I might just be a little interested. Regardless of if he shows his “beast” or not.

Consensus: The leading-performances in The Canyons are what keep it from falling apart at the reigns, even though it comes very close due to the misdirection from Schrader, and a tad too serious-approach from Ellis and his writing.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Just think about it, all those years ago, so many nerds camped-out in front of this theater just to see The Phantom Menace. Now, those nerds are replaced by drug-addicted homeless people.
Just think about it, all those years ago, so many nerds camped-out in front of this theater just to see The Phantom Menace. Now, those nerds are replaced by drug-addicted homeless people.
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13 comments

  1. The jokes and doubts my boyfriend and I had about this movie coming out was crazy. I’m actually happy that it wasn’t completely horrible (for your sake) and well, Lindsay Lohan used to be good (Mean Girl days), I just wished she’d get back a bit of that and be grateful for what she has instead of just messing up her career. It definitely could be interesting and maybe I will eventually see it. Plus, porn star doing a decent job in an actual role and not sucking…I’m curious 🙂
    Awesome review Dan!

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