Put aside the tabloid drama, the host of personal problems and the public-relations embarrassments that have ruined her reputation, and Lindsay Lohan has shown the ability to be a talented actress.
So it’s not surprising that her performance helps to elevate The Canyons, an otherwise vapid look at sex, drugs and misanthropy among characters on the fringes of fame in contemporary Los Angeles.
Lohan plays Tara, an actress who enjoys manipulating the men in her life, including Christian (James Deen), a movie producer whose new project has Tara starring alongside Ryan (Nolan Funk), an actor whose past encounters with Tara are a mystery to Christian.
Throw another actress (Amanda Brooks) into the mix, and both Tara and Christian suspect each other of having affairs as they check mobile phones and discarded clothing for clues. Suspicion later turns to paranoia, for Christian in particular, as the relationship deteriorates amid violent acts of revenge.
Veteran director Paul Schrader (American Gigolo) is no stranger to edgy material, but this film seems to treat its audience with indifference. Filled with shallow and superficial characters, it takes a TMZ approach – ironic considering Lohan’s involvement – that tries to lure in moviegoers by replacing emotional attachment with sensationalism.
That wouldn’t be quite so bad if the script by Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) was provocative or insightful with regard to relationships or behind-the-scenes Hollywood wrangling. Instead, the low-budget film is loaded with conversations about nothing in particular, along with a collection of sex scenes that are neither especially shocking nor titillating.
Perhaps it’s meant as a sort of satire on our cultural obsession with the lives of the young and beautiful, but it’s not played for laughs. Or maybe Ellis and Schrader are commenting on how modern technology has eroded social skills, where the most meaningful dialogue is relayed through text messages and relationships are dictated by the whims of social media.
Either way, the performances are a mixed bag (including Deen, a former porn star making his uneven mainstream debut under his alias) and the film generally mines familiar territory. Rather than giving its characters a chance at redemption, The Canyons forces viewers to wallow in their misery.
Not rated, 95 minutes.