- 1hr 46 min
It’s February! Time to review romance stuff… or my version of that, anyway 😉
The Canyons didn’t receive much love when it came out, and I can see why. Too many big names were attached to what ended up being a cheap b-movie, and Ms. Lohan was at the tail end of a pretty sordid tabloid run at the time. Also, one of the main characters is a porn star in his first big dramatic role, and the filmed foursome (which is not all that graphic considering how it was hyped) might not be for everyone.
Personally, I thought the cheapness worked in this movie’s favor. It’s a Hollywood film, after all. And I don’t mean “Hollywood”, I mean Hollywood. The cluster of towns all around Los Angeles brimming with gorgeous people that grow more and more desperate the longer they stay. They know they will never win the Hollywood game, but they’ve played too long to get out. They will either make it or make sure no one else does.
In this way, then, The Canyons is a horror film, and Hollywood is the vampire who promises fame and fortune to lure in all the pretty fools it feeds on. Bret Easton Ellis wrote the screenplay, and I think this is a better version of American Psycho than the actual movie for the book. Christian, played by James Deen the porn star, is a perfect Patrick Bateman for the west coast crowd. He is vacant, vain, useless and yet remarkably self-aware. If Bateman was the cold heart of Manhattan personified in the novel, then this guy is Hollywood, sucking the life and dreams of everyone and everything around him not just because he can but because in a twisted way everyone around him deserves it.
Like I said, this is a Hollywood film. It drips Hollywood, from its title, its cast, its creators, its themes, its look. There are beautiful shots of the mansion Christian and Tara live at that reminded me of the cinematography in The Limey, another great Hollywood film. But it got the vibe of regular LA down too, with scenes reminiscent of Mulholland Drive and Neon Demon. Everything looks bright without being colorful, like a cloudy sky on a sunny day. The shots are often just a little longer than they should be. There’s a coffee shop scene where Tara is having lunch at a window, and it looks like a UPS truck is going to drive right into her. And anytime she walks up and down the mansion’s stairs, the camera holds on the way she teeters on her ridiculously high heels.
Then there are the shots of the actors looking into the camera directly. It doesn’t come off as breaking the fourth wall though, it’s more like they are including the audience in the artifice, sort of making the audience complicit. This works so well in the very beginning, where it’s almost as if you are a character at the dinner scene, with the actors talking directly into the camera and looking wildly uncomfortable.
As for Ms. Lohan, she is either a terrific actress that was going through such a rough time during filming that it showed, or she’s a typical starlet that lucked out in scoring a role she was born to play. In any case, everything works. Lohan is puffy, confused, vacant, defensive and fragile all at the same time. Her thick, heavy eye makeup give her this sort of grand dame effect, and the big shoes she totters around in give her a certain vulnerability. It’s like she’s this little girl pretending to be taller than she really is. It’s almost touching, considering that we’ve all known the actress since she was little, and remember how cute she used to be. Say what you will about her now, the girl is the perfect embodiment of a delicious ice cream cone melting in the sun.
All the other actors are B-list types, interchangeable, even to each other. They are often filmed through the same smutty lens used to film the boys in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. It was fitting, then, to see Gus in a small role towards the end of the film. And for the record, I can see how some people could sense a sort of homophobic vibe in the movie. I get it, but I think it’s used more as an emasculation of the Ryan character than anything else. It’s stupid, sure, but these are not the smartest people the movie is depicting.
I love this movie. If you liked American Psycho the book, or movies like Neon Demon and The Limey, I think you’ll like this one.