What's your damage, Lindsay Lohan?
LiLo appears to give that question an answer as disaffected, super-mascaraed socialite Tara in Paul Schrader's epic fizzle of a film The Canyons: her damage is something to be exploited for drama (certainly by Lohan herself) as if she were a kind of latter-day female Dennis Hopper. The only problem is that she doesn’t possess any of Hopper's jittery, live-wire spark, his inventory of manic quirks. What you get from Lohan in The Canyons is energy-sapped ennui that looks like a bad parody of an Antonioni movie starring people who've never actually watched an Antonioni movie. There's no train-wreck appeal in seeing The Canyons. Only boredom and the dawning of a final realization that our inexplicably enduring interest in Lohan far surpasses her actual talent.
Schrader, and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho), make their agenda in The Canyons clear in its title. It's the topographical and moral opposite of The Hills. The MTV show was glammed-up meaninglessness about hot young things buying stuff and getting into petty squabbles. The Canyons also focuses on hot young things (one of them, James Deen, a real-life porn star!), but to reveal the dark, even psychotic, moral decay at the center of their lives.
Deen's Christian is another of Ellis' sociopathic twentysomething trust-fund brats — Patrick Bateman with a smartphone. He films himself and others having sex with his girlfriend Tara (Lohan), who he plans to cast opposite a naïve Hollywood newcomer named Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk) in a movie he's about to start shooting. He's young, rich, and has nothing better to do, so why not make a movie? Who cares if he has no idea how to make one?
On the side, Christian keeps another bed partner, Gina (Amanda Brooks), who he has sex with but violently refuses to kiss. Like everything in the movie, Schrader and Ellis' ideas are abundantly clear and on the surface: Christian wants instant gratification but not intimacy, and it's hard not to see him as their shallow commentary on the millennial generation as a whole. Schrader deploys a dizzying array of distancing devices to keep us at bay, including the projection of neon lights on Deen, Lohan, and Funk's nubile bodies during a group sex scene that has "Razzie Nomination" written all over it.
The web of trysts between these four characters is pretty complex, and on the surface it seems none of the characters possess any emotional investment in their hook-ups. But, of course, they really do. Like the characters in one of Schrader's favorite movies, Jean Renoir’s masterpiece The Rules of the Game, they've actively tried — and failed — to deaden themselves emotionally in order to deal with the meaninglessness of their lives. Finally, an eruption of violence shatters the love polygon once one of the characters decides that he can only find meaning in petty jealousy. These are people who, like Renoir said of his characters at the time of The Rules of the Game's 1939 release, "dance on the edge of a volcano." The only problem is that, unlike in Renoir's film, this is a volcano that produces no heat.
Schrader started as a film critic until making the jump in the mid '70s to screenwriting (The Yakuza, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and then directing with Blue Collar and Hardcore, the latter an acid portrait of a father devastated when he discovers his daughter has become a porn actress. He followed up Hardcore with American Gigolo. These were dynamic depictions of the intersection of sex, money, and morality. But Schrader's always had a clinical streak, and he's shown throughout his career a penchant for having great ideas but not knowing how to dramatize them, for being able to deconstruct movie tropes like a critic without being able to reassemble them for emotional satisfaction. He was as washed up as Lohan when he got around to making The Canyons, and together they've made a film that has us wondering why we ever cared about them in the first place.
Lohan wears her hair up in a bun and equips herself with ridiculous bangle jewelry, as if she's just stepped off the set of Liz & Dick. Deen, an actor who's better at "doing" than speaking, seems to recite his lines phonetically. And Schrader's direction feels like that of a UCLA sophomore with a running bar tab at the Chateau Marmont. It's utterly lifeless.
The moral rot of Spring Breakers is given pungent urgency by all that neon and Skrillex — you get caught up in the girls' crime spree and are even implicated in it yourself, because that film throbs with life. The Canyons doesn't even have a pulse. It's not so bad it's good. It's not destined to be a camp classic. It certainly will do nothing for Lohan's career. It's just bad. All it has going for it is an apt title that applies to the movie itself: a place you fall into until you hit rock bottom.
What do you think? Tell Christian Blauvelt directly on Twitter @Ctblauvelt and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
More: All the Insane Things Lindsay Lohan Did on the Set of ‘The Canyons’ ‘The Canyons’ Fails at SXSW: 10 Other Times Lindsay Lohan Has Been Rejected Lindsay Lohan Makes First Foray into Porn in ‘The Canyons’ Trailer
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman) is an emotionally closed-off British ex-con who heads to Canada to visit an old lover. When he misjudges the distances between Ontario and Winnipeg he rents a car and starts driving across the snowy winter landscape. He encounters a charming young woman named Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire) who hitches a ride and begins to thaw out his frozen heart but then tragedy strikes as the pair has a terrible car accident and Vivienne is killed. Alex is left with terrible guilt and so drives to the little town of Wawa to offer condolences to Vivienne’s mother Linda (Sigourney Weaver). Surprisingly Alex discovers that Linda is a high-functioning autistic and as he agrees to help her plan the funeral an unlikely friendship develops. Meanwhile Alex also meets Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss) Linda’s beautiful next-door neighbor; his relationships with those two very different women change him very unexpected ways. Forget Ripley from the Alien flicks! With Snow Cake Sigourney Weaver gives the performance of her life. She transforms completely into Linda Freeman a middle-aged woman whose life is framed – but not controlled – by her autism. From her slightly twitchy movements to the far-off look in her eyes Weaver masterfully captures the physical elements of the disorder; add in the completely believable dialogue that reveals Linda’s inner emotional state and the portrayal is one that just might bring Weaver an Academy Award for her work. Alan Rickman is equally affecting as a man whose personal anguish threatens to shut him down completely; his emotional reawakening is so real that we can’t help but empathize and root for him. Carrie-Anne Moss is quietly effective as the sexually restless neighbor and Emily Hampshire is a beam of sunshine in her short time on the screen as Linda’s daughter a real face to watch for the future. Welsh director Mark Evans cut his teeth on British television and small films like Trauma. With Snow Cake he proves that he’s got a talent for telling emotional stories without descending into sentimentality. That’s a fine line and one that makes this film sit head and shoulders above those Lifetime channel flicks that send a chill up the spine of every red-blooded male (and many of us females too). First-time screenwriter Angela Pell should get massive credit as well. She tapped into her personal experience as the parent of an autistic boy translating that knowledge into creating a portrait of a grown woman (and mother of a normal daughter) who has successfully made her way through life despite her disability. The potent combination of those two talents united with across-the-board fine acting make Snow Cake a supremely satisfying cinematic experience. Watch for this one during awards season later this year.
Based on a true court
case first tried in 1953 Evelyn recounts the story of a man on a mission. Rumpled pub-crawler Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan) has a streak
of bad luck when he loses his wife to another man the day after
Christmas and then loses his three
children Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur) Maurice (Hugh McDonagh) and Dermot (Niall Beagan) to the Catholic
church and Irish courts. That he's without a wife and a regular job prompts the courts to place the tots in an
orphanage which he unsucessfully tries to steal them from. This of course was not a good move. He
gets caught and the courts see this as a strike
against him. Doyle does not give up--instead he gets his life together. But it
turns out that an obscure law that has never
been tried in the courts before requires that Doyle's estranged spouse give him
custody of the kids so he enlists several lawyers (Alan Bates
Aidan Quinn and Stephen Rea) to help him get
In the end the story ends happy ever
after but not without its up and downs. Doyle must
face the hardship of living without his children and
his children must suffer through living in a miserable
Although this story line is based in predictibility-land the actors
still come out on top. Brosnan's character with his native Irish accent anti-Bond dishevelment and
pitful story is charming. Each time he leaves the
screen he leaves you wanting more. It seems
as though this role was made for him. We are used to seeing
him in the coolly unrealistic role of James Bond and this is a refreshing change. He shows the
true acting skills that he really has as a father in
agony. Julianna Margulies
also surprises with her protrayal of Bernadette
Doyle's love interest. She is charming and feisty as
a bartender who enlists her solicitor brother's help to put the devastated father's family back together again.
He may be a double Oscar nominee but Bruce Beresford's directing here is mediocre. The director whose only decent film in recent years was 1999's Double Jeopardy makes a script that is already too obvious painfully so. Pacing is a little slow some of it is corny (ie: rays of sunshine representing faith) and some of it seems unnecessary (a love-triangle plot). The great acting and chemistry between Doyle and his kids especially daughter Evelyn is the best part about this movie.