Dir: Paul Schrader. US. 2013. 99mins
Harnessing the unpredictable talents of director Paul Schrader, writer Bret Easton Ellis and star Lindsay Lohan, The Canyons turns out, after much Internet chatter, to be a fitfully intriguing but ultimately aimless psychosexual thriller about pretty young things behaving badly in Hollywood.
Lohan (who hasn’t carried a hit since 2005’s Herbie: Fully Loaded) is more than believable, but neither the script nor her performance quite explains the fatal attraction that Tara seems to exert.
Lohan’s participation and a handful of kinky sex scenes are sure to get the film noticed, but there may not be enough style or substance here to keep audience interest going for long.
The Lohan-generated free publicity will be a boon when IFC Films gives the film its simultaneous theatrical/VOD US opening on August 2. And an international premiere out of competition at Venice should help the independent distributors that have bought the film for international markets.
In his first script written directly for the screen, Less Than Zero author Ellis sets up a love triangle between arrogant trust-fund movie producer Christian (played by porn star James Deen), his emotionally and financially dependent girlfriend Tara (Lohan) and struggling actor Ryan (Glee’s Nolan Funk).
The three characters - plus a few other industry wannabes - get caught up in a web of deceit, paranoia and manipulation that shows glamorous Los Angeles to be, in the words of one character, “a pretty fucked up town.”
Schrader (whose last feature was 2008’s Adam Resurrected) tells most of the story in two-character scenes set in Christian’s sleek Malibu mansion or on locations around LA. And he successfully disguises the fact that the film was made on a Kickstarter-assisted microbudget.
The tone is sinister neo-noir, with cell phones playing an important role (which may - along with the VOD/theatrical release strategy - account for the occasional insert shots of abandoned cinemas).
Lohan (who hasn’t carried a hit since 2005’s Herbie: Fully Loaded) is more than believable, but neither the script nor her performance quite explains the fatal attraction that Tara seems to exert. In his first non-porn role, Deen is excellent as the icy Christian.
Production companies: Prettybird Pictures, Post Empire Films, Sodium Fox
International sales: Voltage Pictures, www.voltagepictures.com
Producer: Braxton Pope
Screenplay: Bret Easton Ellis
Cinematography: John DeFazio
Production designer: Stephanie J Gordon
Editor: Tim Silano
Music: Brendan Canning
Main cast: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston