Directed by Paul Schrader and written by the perpetually frowning Bret Easton Ellis, The Canyons is a towering monument to the emptiness of Hollywood, as well as a huge fingerwag at the vacuous lifestyles of white rich people.
At some point during the writing phase maybe.
Tara (Lindsey Lohan, who was in Mean Girls) and Christian (porn star James Deen, who has been in a lot of mean girls) are the snarkiest couple in the neighbourhood. They sleepwalk through each other’s lives, popping Valium and slurring declarations of love to each other whilst taking part in numerous orgies. If you’ve read any work by Ellis, this will all be familiar territory. When Christian begins to suspect that Tara is sleeping with the lead in his latest film project, he begins to stalk and harass her in the dullest, most poorly acted manner imaginable.
This is not an enjoyable film. Dubbed as an erotic thriller, it has the eroticism of walking in on your grandparents. And presumably the brief flash of violence in the third act must past for thrilling these days in the Schrader household. Lohan’s performance has been praised in America and whilst we understand why, let us not forget that she’s up against Deen – a man with two facial expressions; his frowny ‘I’m acting’ face and his ‘I feel funny in my rude bits’ face.
Like Ellis’ other work, his characters always have something at hand to say, but no one’s listening. They’re just waiting for their turn to talk. Unfortunately for The Canyons, the same could be said about its audience. We’re not listening. Everyone, including Gus Van Sant’s psychiatrist, mumbles like words have gone out of fashion. Any dialogue that does bubble to the surface doesn’t cause a blip on the interesting scale. It’s just words. Meaningless words.
If we’re honest, the sole purpose for someone wanting to watch The Canyons will be down to the car crash element. You can’t look away. And if that’s your reasoning, fine, but please note that, like rubbernecking an actual car crash, watching The Canyons will give you a momentary sense of guilty pleasure, maybe even some schadenfreude, before leaving you with a sense of shame and a desire to take a long hard look at your actions.