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Review: The Canyons, starring Lindsay Lohan and James Deen

December 17, 2013

The idea that Los Angeles is a soulless, abandoned facade is a well-worn trope – a tautology established and explored on film with great effect and depth by such masters as Robert Altman, Roman Polanski and the Coen brothers. It’s an easy conceit that, when handled with subtlety, offers not only a glimpse inside the naked ambitions of wounded individuals but also serves as an indictment of the American condition. The Canyons, starring Lindsay Lohan and adult film star James Deen, contains no such subtlety.

Presented as a taut psycho-sexual thriller, The Canyons traces the connections between ambition and obsession as it recounts the incestuous relationships of two archetypical Los Angeles couples. Christian (Deen) and Tara (Lohan) are moneyed and jaded, while Ryan (Nolan Funk) and Gina (Amanda Brooks) are the nascent LA newcomers, wide eyed and over-eager. Presented as the most obvious of foils in the opening scene, these two couples occupy polar ends of the innocence/experience spectrum. Thus, any concession toward subtlety ends.

The screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis trades in such broad strokes that faulting the actors for flat performances seems unfair. Cribbing badly aging secondhand gestures from his own work (Less than Zero, American Psycho), Easton Ellis’ script is a pastiche of cliche dialogue and trite sexual scenarios that may have felt dangerously subversive two decades ago. The three principals deliver their lines with all the intensity and commitment of a cold table read; leaving  the burden of actually acting  to Amanda Brooks who unfortunately disappears mid film. The events of the film do not unfold but rather just happen in the most laissez-faire entropy; leading up to the most unnecessary “violence as climax” ending.

Much like the opening stills of abandoned cinemas and incomplete marquees, The Canyons personifies a failure to entertain, to compel, or sustain; ultimately soulless and abandoned. In that way, it succeeds.

Now available on iTunes. See trailer below.