Warning: This review is lousy with spoilers, but it’s fine. You’re not going to watch this movie anyway.
First of all, let me say that I sometimes like Bret Easton Ellis’ work. Not always, but I get that he’s satirical and “post-empire” and when he’s not being a self-righteous d-bag, he actually has interesting commentary on society. So I hoped that his screenwriting would be a plus for this film.
Second, Paul Schrader directed The Canyons. Though his directing career hasn’t been epic, he wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. So you’d think he had a handle on this film-making thing.
Third, if I don’t like something, I usually stay quiet out of respect for the artist’s vision and all that. And I know sometimes the story in your head doesn’t end up on paper so I try not to be overly critical. But I just can’t freaking help this one. The Canyons left me with a lot to get off my chest. Maybe because I went into it with the attitude that it couldn’t be that bad. Movies are rarely as awful as the critics claim. But it is that bad, you guys. It really is.
The first scene is painfully boring. It’s a conversation between two couples, Christian (James Deen) and Tara (Lindsay Lohan), and Ryan (Nolan Funk) and Gina (Amanda Brooks). Christian is a producer or something and has recently cast Ryan in a film as a favor to his assistant Gina since Ryan is Gina’s boyfriend. And because Tara insisted that Ryan was just perfect for the role. Whatever the hell that role is, or what the movie is, or any of that shit, no one knows because none of that seems to have anything to do with the plot. And this is the scene that sets up the entire film.
This opening snooze-fest conversation centers on Christian announcing to the table that he brings people over to watch him have sex with Tara, and to sometimes to have mini-orgies. Because that’s dinner conversation in the canyons, my friends. There’s lots of time on smartphones, then there’s a close up of a lime being squeezed into a cocktail.
Okay, so Tara is living with Christian who is a spoiled trust-fund baby wanna-be filmmaker who only dabbles in filmmaking to keep his dad off his back so he doesn’t lose his trust fund which allows him to live in ridiculous luxury and debauchery. I guess his dad is some sort of Pablo Escobar type figure. Because art.
We soon learn that Tara is doinking Ryan behind Christian’s back because they used to be in love but she couldn’t take being poor anymore. Bartending and going to auditions was just too taxing for her, so she moved in with a spoiled douchebag who sometimes makes her do it with other dudes and sometimes chicks, but hey, she doesn’t have to hold down a job.
Christian knows something is going on so he constantly interrogates Tara, then tells her he trusts her. And her hair extensions are TERRIBLE.
Then Christian tells a gay producer to tell Ryan his part will be recast unless he sleeps with him. Why? Not sure. I guess to see if Ryan swings both ways, or to see how desperate he is to keep his part. But that question is never really answered, because who really gives a shit by then?
Also, Tara (Lohan) sun bathes a lot but she is as pale as talcum powder. Do they make SPF 1000?
There are lots of shots of abandoned movie theaters. I’m sure it’s supposed to be some metaphor about how films have changed, and to justify Schrader’s Kickstarter campaign to get this festering turd made. But really the abandoned theaters can also be a metaphor for what happens when Lindsay Lohan and James Deen get top billing in movies.
This girl named Cynthia who Christian still has sex with sometimes confronts Tara to tell her that one time Christian roofied her and had her gang-raped on camera. So that’s why they still hang out, I guess. Also, Cynthia knows that Ryan and Tara used to date, but Christian does not.
It turns out that Cynthia’s story was a lie, because that’s super helpful for rape victims, you dumb bitch. And she did it because she wants Christian back, who really is a waste of resources. I mean, seriously, there’s a water shortage in California. Nobody should be sharing water with Christian.
And then there’s a four-way where Tara turns the power tables on Christian which is supposed to be erotic and important to story development but really it’s just kind of gross. Then we learn that Christian’s dad also requires him to go to therapy in order to keep his trust fund. His therapist is Gus Van Sant, because WHY NOT? So he tells Gus Van Sant that he didn’t enjoy losing his power during group sex. Boo hoo, pervert.
Apparently, Christian’s a psychopath or some shit and really needs that therapy because he totally murders Cynthia for lying about him. He goes all stabby-style while she screams, “Christian, NO!” Then Ryan calls Cynthia right after it happens and Christian picks up and says, “I can’t believe what you did to her, dude.” So obviously Ryan drives straight to her house and leaves his mark on the crime scene, instead of doing something crazy like calling the police.
Tara wants to leave Christian. He says she can as long as she provides him with an alibi for the time he spent murdering the yoga mistress. He also says that if she ever sees Ryan (“if you’re ever even in the same room with him again”) he’ll kill Ryan and get away with it. Because, you know, white rich privilege and all.
This dungpile ends with another boring dinner scene. This one with some rando actress telling Tara that she heard about her from Christian, but then she asks Tara how Christian is doing. Because that makes sense.
By this time, Tara is with some other dude and they just got back from Dubai, where Tara “shopped and laid out” like the slutty sloth she is.
So the rando chick goes to the bathroom at the restaurant and calls someone who we assume is Christian to give the Tara update, but is actually Ryan because the next shot is him staring hauntingly at the camera. Maybe not so much hauntingly as blankly as in “wait, what was I supposed to do here?”
The point it that two men are obsessed with Tara, a woman with bad extensions who chain smokes and shops all day. And really doesn’t seem to do anything else except lots of sexing.
The movie would have been better if instead of Christian murdering just Cynthia, he murdered everyone in the movie and then committed suicide. It would have been fine, because every single character was so underdeveloped that vapid seems to rich a word to describe them.