The Canyons really pissed me off. Seriously. Here was an opportunity squandered by an esteemed filmmaker and there’s no reason the film should be so awful. Paul Schrader is a man who wrote Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ. He directed American Gigolo, The Comfort of Strangers and Affliction, plus the lesser seen gems, Light Sleeper and Auto Focus. The man knows how to make movies, period.
Even though he was working with a miniscule budget and shooting on digital video, artists should be able to create with any medium at their disposable. The Canyons is so infuriatingly bad I can’t recommend it to anyone unless train wrecks are their cup of tea. Working with a script by Bret Ellis Easton (the novelist who wrote of Less Than Zero and American Psycho), there are portions of the movie that are so infuriatingly bad, I’d swear this was a late night Skinemax film. At least those soft core flicks have a sense of humor.
The set-up isn’t without some merit. An obsessive trust fund guy (James Deen) likes to arrange threesomes with his live-in girlfriend (Lindsay Lohan), as long as he’s in control. When he discovers that the actor just cast in the low budget movie he’s fund rolling is sleeping with his woman, he starts to lose his mind. That’s about the gist. Greater movies have been made with less plot, but The Canyons is not a great movie.
The production values are amateurish; the sound, at times, seems to have been recorded in camera, and the cinematography is about as good as a college student who’s in his first year of film school.
As for the acting, porn star James Deen make a reasonable impression as an obsessive boyfriend who is okay cheating on his girlfriend, but doesn’t like it when she’s getting some on the side. He probably could have been better had he received some direction. The rest of the supporting cast, though, seems lost, as if they really are acting in a college film and not a production by the guy who brought us Cat People. The one actor with any bite is Lohan, who seems to be in a completely different motion picture, one that’s actually good. She does some nice work in The Canyons. Watching her just made me sad that so much of her career has been tossed aside in favor of partying and general bad behavior. It made me root for her even more to stay sober so she could get rediscovered by a director not wasting our time.
Many people will want to see The Canyons because of the way Schrader lovingly films Lohan’s breasts, sometimes gratuitously. If you’re that desperate to see her naked, you can find the pics online, or wait until The Canyons is on cable. For anyone wondering, the well endowed Mr. Deen shows his goods, as well. As for the rest of you, the ones who expected more from the man who wrote The Mosquito Coast and Bringing Out the Dead, avoid this movie at all costs. I rarely ever say that, but I mean it.