Review: The Canyons

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The stunt casting of The Canyons got me to tune in on Video on Demand, and though the film is not very good I wouldn’t call it a waste of time. It’s evidence that despite her many troubles, Lindsay Lohan is a very good actress, and that porn stud James Deen, while not a great actor, is not a disaster.

Directed by Paul Schrader, with a script by literary bad boy Bret Easton Ellis, The Canyons harkens back to other Schrader works like American Gigolo. The palate is cool colors, the score heavy on electronica, the attitude arrogant. Though Lohan is the big name here, it is actually Deen’s picture, and he walks through it like a man who knows he’s got a big cock (which does get a cameo).

The plot is a basic soap opera. Deen, a trust-fund douchebag, is living with Lohan, who basically is with him because of his money and his Malibu mansion. Deen is into kinky stuff like swinging, or just having guys watch him and Lohan fuck.

Deen’s assistant (Amanda Brooks) is dating a would-be actor (Nolan Funk). Deen is putting some of his money into a horror film, and Brooks gets him to cast Funk in the lead. Unbeknownst to Brooks or Deen is that Lohan and Ryan used to be a thing, and have started sleeping together again. Deen, who is not above cheating on Lohan with his yoga instructor, suspects her and starts having them followed.

While it’s all basically a dressed up Cinemax movie, complete with soft-core sex scenes (and Lohan does show off her body–the days of Herbie the Love Bug are long gone), I think Ellis and Schrader were going after something bigger, but what I don’t know. In the opening credits and punctuating each chapter are shots of abandoned movie theaters. They are worthy as photographs, but I didn’t get the connection. Ellis has long written about the soulless lives of young people, especially in L.A., and Deen’s character is a doozy. I’ve seen Deen in countless adult films (I can’t really recall another male adult performer making the gulf to mainstream as a lead), and he always projected a puppy-dog boyishness, but his character here is so callow that I wonder if I’ll ever see him again without thinking of this film.

The film makes a turn toward crime in the last act, something I’m not sure I bought. Perhaps this film is really about possessiveness, as the love expressed in the film goes unrewarded. Thus the murder that takes place really doesn’t fit, except it had to go somewhere.

The Canyons is a moody film, but not particularly erotic or interesting.

My grade for The Canyons: C-.

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

One response »

  1. Directed by Paul Schrader?!

    Written by Bret Easton Ellis?! (I loved Imperial Bedrooms).

    How did I not know these two facts? And how has Schrader gone from the greatest biopic of all time, Mishima, (reinstate the Scheider narration!) to this?

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