Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Canyons

"The Canyons" isn't as bad as you'd feared, or as bad as you'd hoped. But it is bad, flat not in the affectless way of good Bret Easton Ellis (the film's writer) but in Paul Schrader's directorial style and wooden performances by Lilo and porn king James Deen.
Mr. Deen portrays Christian, a Malibu trust fund baby who finances movies just to be able to tell Gramps he's actually doing something with his life and keep the checks rolling in. (He's also required to attend regular therapy sessions with a shrink played pointlessly by Gus Van Sant.) Ms. Lohan is his girlfriend Tara, happy to have found a rich boyfriend and to spend her days looking for something new to do. Christian and Tara fill their nights with anonymous sexual encounters (with both women and men), which Christian films on his iPhone. Ostensibly as a favor to his assistant (Amanda Brooks), Christian has cast her bartender boyfriend Ryan (hunky Nolan Funk) as the lead in his new slasher flick. But Ryan and Tara share a past connection that threatens to drive the hyper-jealous Christian over the edge. 

The film contains a number of sex scenes, including a fair amount of both male and female nudity. But anytime it threatens to get exciting, Schrader pulls away prissily. In one scene, Christian instructs his producer, who's gay and happily partnered, to call Ryan in for a late-night meeting. He's to tell Ryan the director wants to replace him in the lead, but that Ryan can keep the job if he comes with him to Palm Springs for the weekend. "Why wait?" Ryan asks. "Let's do it right now. Get down here and start sucking." "Seriously?" the producer asks. "Cut!" calls Schrader. 

"The Canyons" can't decide whether it's porn or soap opera or a "Less Than Zero"-style portrait of hedonism and cruelty among wealthy young Angelenos. Patrick Bateman was motivated by sociopathy and genuine disdain for the poor taste and imperfections of others. By contrast, Christian's jealousy feels far more mundane, and makes for melodramatic exchanges out of keeping with the detached tone of the rest of the material (these serve Ms. Lohan especially poorly). And the sex isn't sexy. So what's to like?

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