The Canyons was never going to be a good film, with the casting of porn star James Deen and Lindsey Lohan, it seemed that the projects intention was more frothy amusement than satisfaction— a celluloid one-night stand. With the retro trailers hitting the web six months before its release, and Stephen Rodericks infamous New York Times article which chronicled Lohans outlandish on-set behavior, the audience never anticipated anything more than a diluted Return of the Valley of the Dolls. Unfortunately The Canyons was diluted down to 80% water and 20% Peppermint Schnapp’s, a stale unsatisfying drink you find in your grandmothers liquor cabinet.
The only substantial aspect of The Canyons was the marketing, where more reference was made to the Times article, the casting of its two leads and a Kickstarter campaign than the film. It would be fair to say that most people didn’t care about the plot and were more interested in seeing another Lohan failure; substance would not be on the menu. The audience does however want to be entertained, but unfortunately that wasn’t on the menu either.
The screenplay, written by Brett Easton Ellis (American Psyco, Less Than Zero) who has a knack for writing about Dolls type behavior, gave us nothing provocative here. A Hollywood cliché trust fund (Deen) wants to produce a film and in his spare time likes to have strange sexual encounters with his girlfriend (Lohan). Murder, mayhem and jealousy ensue, but they serve more as distractions from the soft-core porn than actual plot developments.
Getting on the Lindsey Lohan hater parade is about as easy as getting her father to make a statement, but my main issue with the film was not necessarily her performance, but her presence. Mean Girls was a good film and Lohan happened to be good in it, but beyond that I don’t understand the appeal. In Canyons Lohan is supposed to be striking, with an alluring innocence that Christian (Deen) has tainted due to his sexual appetite. The men in Canyons Christian and his nemesis Ryan (Nolan Funk, a ridiculously good-looking former gymnast) are crazy about her which comes off as absurd considering Lohan is more Tan Mom than Ann Margret. The result of bad parenting cannot be reversed, but can duck lips? With an appearance polluted by eyeliner, and red lipstick, Lohans face has been injected with pornstar, while Deen is well cast as a power hungry producer, he could use a few more non-porn gigs to improve his acting ability.
In the Times article Paul Schrader, the director of The Canyons and a celebrated screenwriter (Taxi Driver, The Mosquito Coast, Ragging Bull, Affliction) notes that after directing George C. Scott in Hardcore, Scott agreed to come out of his trailer only if Schrader promised never to direct another film. With American Gigolo Schrader had his moment as a director, and proved Scott wrong (sort of) but it was brief, as Cat People and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, would follow.
Is it safe to assume Lohan should stick to snorting coke in-between lip injections and Schrader should stick to writing? Not necessarily, but if the latex body suit doesn’t fit, don’t attempt to wear it. With the constant bickering, the project seemed doomed from the start. This is not the end for the film, The Canyons will likely join the ranks of Showgirls and Mommy Dearest as films we love to hate but watch all the time. Yet Canyons is not entertaining enough to be in the same league as these films or Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, with its tongue-in-cheek dialogue written by Roger Ebert, from start to finish we were entertained.
The script is not to blame, you could tell the film was made on the cheap, the two leads had no chemistry (it was apparent they hated each other) and the only thing remotely appealing was Funk, who appears in speedos and can act. The filmmakers seemed distracted—mood, lighting, sound and technique were all abandoned for “let’s just get through the day.”
Roger Ebert would often say after his reviews of remakes, “why not remake a bad movie?” I wouldn’t mind if David Fincher got his hands on this, keep Funk, but cast him as Christian (wait ten years until his pretty face sharpens a bit). Tara should melt in your mouth the way a mint does (Elizabeth Olson), not a sour patch kid. Canyons should have gone the tongue and cheek route, the great music we heard in the trailer is not present here. On the other hand I want to watch this film again, how is it that Deen, an articulate Jewish boy with a mechanical engineer father take the porn route? Also, I have never seen breasts with so many freckles have you?