Movie review: Lohan, “Canyons” stumble beyond the tabloids

By Columbus Alive
From the August 1, 2013 edition

"Do you like movies? Do you, like, really like movies?"

This query posted by Tara — who not-so-coincidentally is played by Lindsay "Troubled Actress" Lohan — is almost a dare in a movie like "The Canyons," a self-involved film about self-involved people.

The pedigree of "The Canyons" probably couldn't be more tabloid headline-grabbing if it tried. You start, obviously, with the curious decision to cast Lohan in the lead, a gamble that pays off if she's a) unexpectedly brilliant or b) expectedly a trainwreck. (She's neither here, but we'll get to that later.)

Next, we have the decision to cast a bona fide porn-o-graphic actor (James Deen, get it?) as Tara's antagonistic boyfriend. Deen's casting was the brainchild of the film's writer, author-provocateur Bret Easton Ellis ("American Psycho," "Less Than Zero"), a man who loves to roll around with the most vapid pigs of characters his imagination can conjure. And his imagination has some truly vapid pigs.

The decision to cast Lohan comes from director Paul Schrader, who, like his star is in need of Hollywood success years after the defining films he wrote (“Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull”) and directed (“American Gigolo”).

“The Canyons” opens on scenes of decaying and abandoned cinemas, the projection of a sad old man’s lamentation for the business that moved out from under him. Ellis seems to be no fan of Hollywood either, with a typically cynical script featuring hollow characters having sex and treating one another poorly. The lack of action is both boredom-inducing and strangely hypnotic.

It does include a laser-filled four-way sex scene that feels like it was filmed during a couple skate at a rollerskating rink. So, yeah, there’s that.

Shot on a tiny budget, the film is actually gorgeous, filled with magnificently framed Hollywood mansions and showoff handheld tracking shots.

Lohan’s performance has flashes of vulnerability, but is generally flat — but then again, Ellis characters aren’t known for emoting. Deen is fine but unlikely to make the leap to the other side of the film business.

"The Canyons" is a movie that will be loved and hated by people who, like, really like movies. You want a rating? Two stars. Neither here nor there. But this critic finds it far too fascinating to pass up. See for yourself.