Somehow Paul Schrader is behind the lens of this limp-dick erotic thriller? Man, we’re a long way off from the atmosphere and palpable tension of his greatest films, like the screenplay for Taxi Driver or his directorial work in Affliction. Just as two examples of his intellectual movie-making prowess.
The Canyons is a thinly plotted short story stretched out to feature length and filmed with a group of actors that deliver performances that feel like amateurs stumbling through it all. It somehow makes perfect sense that the two lead roles are occupied by a porn star trying to go mainstream and a former child star turned tabloid burnout. Well, it makes sense in an intensely perverse way.
Eventually The Canyons reveals itself as an awkward subpar softcore. There’s nudity galore, including full frontal shots from two male porn stars and several scenes highlighting Lindsay Lohan’s breasts, and a little bit of violence, but it never plays as anything than provocations without any reason to care about them. The plot is a laughable thing orbiting around four or five characters who all mysteriously have ties and histories that entangle together. Then we’re told that Jams Deen’s disaffected, amoral wealthy elite, Christian (what’s the deal with pop culture ephemera naming dudes like this Christian lately?) is someone to be afraid of and how dangerous he is.
It’s all so distractingly, aggressively poorly made and thought out. Part of the problem is that Schrader and writer Bret Easton Ellis are too similar for their styles to properly ignite. Instead they blank each other out by exasperating the same gaps and weaknesses, including a hysterical piece of homophobia best exemplified by Nolan Funk’s faux-dominant insistence of a blowjob with a lecherous producer. Look at that dreamy looking twunk trying to act butch, adorable in a way if you can box it away from the ickyness of straight worshipping bullshit.
But you know what was most shocking about The Canyons? It’s a reminder that beneath those fillers, substance abuse haze, and technical laziness, there’s something charismatic and absorbing about Lohan. She seems primed and ready-made to play a Tennessee Williams heroine, especially one of the most carnal and doomed ones. It’s understandable why she can’t get a job lately, but there’s something magnetic about her merely existing and intensely staring into the camera. She deserves better than The Canyons even at this point.