Available on VOD beginning Friday, the IFC Films release casts a voyeuristic eye on Los Angeles couple Tara (tabloid fixture Lindsay Lohan, Liz & Dick) and Christian (porn star James Deen, Anal Buffet 8). They’ve been together for one year, but their bedroom — and other areas of their pleasure pad — often plays host to guest stars. By that, I mean that they’re into threesomes and foursomes, or Tara having sex with a stranger while Christian watches and commemorates the event on his phone.
Outside the home, Christian is working on getting a movie off the ground. The young man he’s recruited to star in the project, Ryan (Nolan Funk, House at the End of the Street), is secretly meeting — and screwing — Tara. And when the idea of intercourse is neither the idea of nor involves Christian … well, that’s cheating. Even coked-up, control-freak, pretty-boy, trust-fund babies have moral standards, it seems.
“I never thought this movie would get made,” Christian says at one point, and I’m sure director Paul Schrader shares the sentiment. After months of schizophrenic Kickstarter trailers, the low-budget effort arrives amid more curiosity than hype, yet resembles an episode of Showtime’s Red Shoe Diaries: less gauzy-lensed, perhaps, but retaining every bit of soul-crushing dullness.
The script by Bret Easton Ellis (author of such Zeitgeist novels as American Psycho and Less Than Zero) isn’t up to the low bar of Red Shoe Diaries — or, for that matter, any erotic thriller that became a Skinemax staple. One could argue The Canyons crosses the line into pornography, what with one of Tara and Christian’s conquests seen stroking himself in an expensive chair that one prays has been Scotchguarded.
To address the freckled elephant in the room, yes, Lohan herself appears nude. No longer the child star of Disney matinees, she attempts to revive interest in her heavily damaged, once-promising career by going topless in numerous scenes.
If only she were seen and not heard. Whatever charm and presence she once exhibited long has dissipated; although she’s now 27 years old, she brings so little believability to her adult role that it’s like watching a girl play dress-up. Her co-star, Deen, is as vacuous, but perhaps that’s just Ellis’ screenplay — a chore to see played out, because it’s an utter bore. Its last-ditch twist is more silly than spine-tingling.
What on Earth attracted Schrader to this project? After all, this is the man who wrote Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ for Martin Scorsese. While Schrader’s own directorial résumé admittedly is spotty (Auto Focus is a highlight, whereas his Exorcist prequel, Dominion, famously was shelved), he deserves to work with better material than this. At least he makes Tara and Christian’s house look Architectural Digest-ready; I was more interested in soaking in its ambience than anything else The Canyons had to offer: precious little. —Rod Lott