The Canyons (2013) – Film Review

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Although ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Raging Bull’ writer Paul Schrader teaming up with American novelist Bret Easton Ellis, fallen star Lindsay Lohan and adult film actor James Deen might sound like a promising project, the outcome deserves to be called one of the biggest movie failures of 2013, a list including ‘Movie 43’, ‘Hangover Part III’ or Spike Lee’s ‘Oldboy‘ remake. MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS

Writer Bret Easton Ellis, known for controversial bestsellers ‘Less than Zero’, ‘American Psycho‘ and ‘Glamorama’ is an often adapted author. While the film versions of ‘The Rules of Attraction’ and ‘The Informers’ were only mildly mediocre, the screenplay written by him and the film itself are both just plain terrible. Showcasing the obligatory Ellis elements of the nihilism, emotionless relationships and bisexual vibe of the wealthy, the biggest mistake Schrader makes is taking himself seriously while the empty soundscape, shallow plot and awkward performances make ‘The Canyons’ a parody of itself.

After the promising opening compositions of empty cinema buildings representing the emptiness of Hollywood we are introduced to trust-fund movie producer Christian (James Deen, exploiting his acting experience in Brazzers role-plays), a cool, rich, obscene, bored egoist having dinner with his girlfriend Tara (Lohan), and Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk), soon-to-be film star and Tara’s secret love interest. From the first moment on every line of the script supports the idea that Christian is a self-centered, burnout, evil person. He proudly admits that he makes his girlfriend have sex with other people while claiming that they trust and love each other – in the light of Tara being unfaithful latter lines serve the obvious purpose of justifying his aggressive jealousy later in the film (a plot device mainly used in the cultic 2003 trash melodrama ‘The Room‘, presenting a similar love triangle) – a behaviour contradicting the motivation of Christian’s character or any Ellis character in general. Tara stays with him in spite of the psychical and psychological pain Christian might cause her because ‘he takes care of her and loves her’, she still cheats on him with Ryan. After different scenes proving his questionable morality (such as forcing Ryan to offer himself to another man to keep his role in Christian’s film or himself and Tara performing bisexual partner-sharing with another couple) he accuses Tara of cheating and threatens her and finally kills his other lover, Cynthia in a scene strongly resembling the ‘Paul Allen’ scene from the ‘American Psycho’ film, offering further proof for Christian’s Patrick Bateman-esque nature, which is more of a rip-off than homage to the character. He lets Tara leave him on the condition that if she contacts Ryan again, Christian will kill him. After some time passes, as we learn from the final scene, Ryan spies on her with obsession, as Chrsitian did earlier in the film.

If the audience wouldn’t understand his motivation, Deen’s character regularly explains himself with lines like ‘This is just this’ while having sex and ‘In my own way, but I loved you’ in his final scene with Tara. The neutral cinematography unveils the lack of talent of both main male actors, making Lindsay Lohan’s performance the best one in the film. As much as Ellis’ earlier works deserve to be respected, the very first bad directorial decision was the adapt the screenplay of ‘The Canyons’.

Bence Bardos

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