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REVIEW: The Canyons (Paul Schrader – 2013) – 2nd Opinion


The Canyons opening credits are transposed over a slideshow of dilapidated theatres and drive-ins. Here writer Bret Easton Ellis and director Paul Schrader seem to be heralding an emerging era where self-financed and new media distributed productions signal the death of the theatrical experience. However, what follows says something far less profound but nonetheless pertinent; if this ‘thing’ can be classified as cinema, then I know why it’s dead.

When spoilt, vacuous sex addict Christian (Porn Star James Deen) suspects that his trophy girlfriend Tara (Lindsay Lohan) is hiding something about Ryan (Nolan Funk), an actor that he’s just hired for a film he’s financing, he reveals his dark side.

Two shining moments illuminate themselves like flares in this fog of badly written and poorly directed melodrama. Lindsay Lohan’s Tara is sitting at a cafe with Christian’s (Deen) assistant making up an excuse as to why she’s leaving their film production. In that brief moment she’s empathically saying that movies just aren’t her thing anymore. There’s a bite to the words that have nothing to do with the script or direction, and far more to do with Lohan’s own trial by media.
The second is a classily composed moment of Tara (Lohan) walking through her home shedding her clothes and descending the stairs. Unlike the other ‘get ya tits out’ soft porn scenes that are peppered throughout, it’s a subtle, alluring and dare I say, ‘classy.’

It’s hard to believe that director Paul Schrader, a man that stood next to the burgeoning genius of Martin Scorsese weaving Taxi Driver (which Schrader wrote) into existence, did not absorb some of that brilliance. Unfortunately Schrader clearly idolises Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive and spends The Canyons trying to recreate the beautiful palette, with a markedly smaller budget. However, even budget constraints can’t excuse production design so poor that differentiating between a live and dead cast member is merely said cast member lying still with smatterings of tomato sauce choicely dabbed on their person.

Easton Ellis’ script is nothing short of awful. With call and responses like:
“Babe”; is it any wonder that this film could not find traditional financing. Easton Ellis’ entire oeuvre seeks to examine/explain the perverse effects of decadence and yet he revels in the emptiness of their spawn.

Porn star James Deen has the acting talent of a PORN STAR. There’s no intensity, affective emoting and literally every line delivered feels as if nudity and will follow — oh and in several instances it does. Lindsay Lohan rarely looks lucid. For the duration of The Canyons this reviewer had the overwhelming sense that her daze was being exploited by the dispassionate filmmakers behind the lens.

The Canyons is Easton Ellis cannibalising himself, Schrader badly forging Drive and hack stunt casting of a walking appendage and a starlet that should have been in rehab.

Half a star

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

Directed by: Paul Schrader 
Written by: Bret Easton Ellis 
Starring: Linsday Lohan, Nolan Funk, James Deen, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston, Gus Van Sant

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