Last week, I was given the opportunity to pre-screen “The Canyons,” by Independent Film Channel (IFC) Films. I was interested in seeing whether or not Lindsay Lohan, one of the stars, had gotten her act together in both real life and on screen and was rooting for her, but Lohan’s decent performance could not salvage this film.
I wasn’t sure whether I’d be seeing an interesting film or a Sharknado-style, awesomely bad one considering the cast.
One would suspect it might be amazing. The film is directed by Paul Schrader, who wrote “Taxi Driver” and the screenplay for “Raging Bull,” among other notable films. It was written by Bret Easton Ellis, who may be best known for “American Psycho.” It’s obvious Schrader was trying to find a good fit for a Christian Bale/”American Psycho”-character in “The Canyons,” but it just didn’t work out.
From the beginning, I found this movie difficult to watch, mainly because of lead actor James Deen. If he had asked me, I would have advised him not to steal the similar sounding name of an iconic Hollywood celebrity. But after learning he is a former (and possibly current) adult entertainment star, I suppose that is actually a good choice for a porn star name. However, I do think that if you are starring in a movie with someone with a knock-off moniker, that’s probably a red flag.
I was so distracted by Deen’s inferior acting skills and the meaningless verbiage in the first 10 minutes that I wasn’t sure I could proceed with the film, but I was still rooting for Lohan.
As the movie progressed, I began to increasingly hate Deen’s character and performance, not because he successfully played a disgusting, self-obsessed, megalomaniacal jerk with the social skills and maturity level of a 2-year-old. He and the gratuitous sex scenes that seemed to pull Lindsay Lohan one step closer to porn herself just shouldn’t have been in this film.
Tara (Lohan) is dating Christian (Deen), a rich film producer psychopath who tries to control everyone around him. She’s in love with Ryan, a guy Christian has cast in one of his films. Christian isn’t aware of their previous relationship, and both know the earth would quake if he learns about it.
Tara and Ryan both love each other, but Tara doesn’t feel love is enough. She chooses to be the pawn of a wealthy Hollywood crazy man and live in a mansion in the hills rather than be with the aspiring actor she actually loves and work minimum wage jobs to pay the rent. Tara thinks she’s in control of Christian, but Christian is stealing her soul.
I felt there was a parallel in this movie between Lohan’s character and her real life, and I wanted counsel this girl and tell her that it’s possible to do intriguing, exploratory, independent films that push buttons without resorting to common, unnecessary shock tactics that lack substance. I’d also tell her that being the star of a flop isn’t as good as having a strong secondary role in a good film. Look at the range of roles actresses Taryn Manning and Juliette Lewis have taken on in their careers.
That said, Lohan is not a bad actress in this film. Her line delivery is believable, and her scenes with the rest of the cast seem pretty authentic – just not with Deen.
I think the best thing that could happen to Lohan right now is if she pulled a Brooke Shields-Emma Watson-Natalie Portman-move and went to college. She is apparently a smart girl who makes bad choices in life and obviously in film. Maybe furthering her education would help her make wiser decisions with both.
The film is scheduled to be released Aug. 9 in theaters, but will be available on video on demand Aug. 2. Note: If you have old-fashioned, Southern sensibilities, I would not recommend this film.