Film Review: The Canyons (dir by Paul Schrader)


Do you remember that YouTube video of Chris Crocker screaming, “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!” while tears and eye liner ran down his face?

That’s often the way that I feel about Lindsay Lohan, a talented actress and a fellow redhead whose career has been destroyed not so much by her own mistakes but by the fact that the tabloids refuse to allow her to move on from those mistakes.  It seems that, regardless of what Lindsay Lohan does, not a single story will be written about her that doesn’t mention that she’s spent time in rehab and jail or that doesn’t offer up some sort of tawdry speculation about her private life.

And that’s unfortunate because, regardless of what the tabloids may say, Lindsay Lohan remains an excellent actress who is capable of doing a lot more than parodying her own image in Scary Movie 5.

Consider, for instance, her performance in The Canyons.

In The Canyons, Lohan plays Tara, the world-weary girlfriend of a wealthy sociopath named Christian (James Deen, who may not be a great actor but still projects a proper mix of charm and menace).  Christian is a film producer whose need to control and dominate is demonstrated in both the way he manipulates actor Ryan (Nolan Funk) and the way he arranges for Tara to have sex with strangers while he films the action.

Tara and Christian live a life that epitomizes empty luxury, an existence defined of ennui where casual cruelty is the norm.  However, when he discovers that Tara is secretly having an affair with Ryan, Christian’s carefully constructed facade of control starts to fade away.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Christian’s obsessiveness and manipulative mind games eventually lead to a brutal act of violence…

When it was released earlier this year, The Canyons got terrible reviews and the film is definitely uneven.  Bret Easton Ellis’s script is predictable and, while director Paul Schrader captures some haunting images of Los Angeles at its most languid, the film also is a bit too slow for its own good.  Schrader takes Ellis’s pulpy script and attempts to use it to craft an existential portrait of American culture and he doesn’t quite succeed.

However, to a large extent, The Canyons is redeemed by Lohan’s excellent performance.  In Lohan’s hands, Tara becomes a survivor who has sacrificed her innocence but still has yet to develop the hardness that one needs to survive in Ellis and Schrader’s Los Angeles.  As cynical and decadent a character as Tara may be, Lohan plays her with just enough hints of optimism that it’s impossible not to regret the loss of who she was before she met Christian.

It’s a performance that manages to redeem a film that, without Lohan, would have been one of the worst films of 2013.

For that reason alone, perhaps it’s time to leave Lindsay alone and she what she’s capable of doing when she’s simply allowed to act.

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2 responses to “Film Review: The Canyons (dir by Paul Schrader)

  1. Pingback: Here Are The Totally Predictable and Boring Razzie Nominations | Through the Shattered Lens

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