Directed by Paul Schrader
It’s been hard to separate the crosstalk around The Canyons—Lindsay Lohan! scrappy indie-duo Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis! Lindsay Lohan and a porn star in Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis’s scrappy indie! Lindsay Lohan!—from the actual movie. All mere distraction, you might say, but then again, The Canyons started it: the setting is the film world (punctuated by shots of derelict theaters), or at least that purgatorial sub-stratum that makes vanity-produced cheapies.
That’s a bold, perhaps foolhardy, choice of milieu for a low-budget, high-minded gamble. The unhappy or morally bankrupt Angelenos who haunt The Canyons—shot in concertedly queasy digital and recorded with a hollow audio affect—seem to express nothing so much as a collective cruddy feeling about the putatively sick soul of cinema, when the writer of Taxi Driver has to crowdfund and crowdcast to get something made (under the banner Post Empire Films, no less). Playing girlfriend Tara to rich “sick little boy” Christian (chilling, or just chilly, James Deen), Lindsay Lohan effectively alternates glaze and tears—with the odd spark—but the extrafilmic decay of her celebrity does not translate to star power and Marilyn-grade vulnerability.
Christian’s competition is Tara’s ex, a stuck young actor named Ryan (Nolan Funk), essentially another peon for his omnipotent successor to play with. Ellis’s schematic screenplay and Schrader’s mannered staging set up a soap opera dead-set on its pretentions—a concept more than a film, fixated on this toxic fallen world but breathtakingly careless with on-point howlers such as “Nobody has a fucking private life anymore” or “How quickly can you hack into his bank account?” (later, cut to Ryan, at an ATM, cursing). Three and a half decades after Taxi Driver, Scorsese made Hugo, a film about cinema—is this, at some level, Schrader’s response?
Opens August 2