Lindsay Lohan returns to the big screen in "The Canyons," a new drama that's drawn attention for its off-screen controversy. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
An unusual question hovers over "The Canyons," a stylishly scandalous tale of sex,
lies, manipulation, moviemaking, murder and other dark-side-of-Los-Angeles pursuits: Can this malevolent thriller soap opera, written by Bret Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Schrader, possibly match the baroque sleaze and drama of the infamous New York Times Magazine story earlier this year that chronicled the making of the movie? The answer is: Almost (and that's a compliment).
The article was built around the bad-girl times of Lindsay Lohan, and it followed the shooting of this micro-budgeted movie as it threatened to turn train wreck. But now that it's here, "The Canyons" turns out to be a tight, diverting piece of work. Its amusement, and limitation, is that it dares to take Bret Easton Ellis' florid cynicism deadly seriously.
Lohan plays Tara, a lost soul who has made herself the live-in plaything of a sex-addict trust-fund sociopath named Christian. He's played by James Deen, the real-life star of 4,000 adult videos, and for once, a figure from the porn world reveals true acting talent. Deen makes Christian a rivetingly ice-cold game player.
The Canyons is all about how Christian degrades and controls Tara, recruiting sex partners for her, and also about how she tries to escape him by falling for Ryan, a boy toy who's the lead in a bad horror movie Christian is bankrolling.
There is much more kink and duplicity on display, all served up in contemporary, sunlit L.A.-noir style. Schrader, a filmmaker with a vital streak of voyeurism, tries to find the human side of it all, and though the film doesn't always work, he succeeds just enough to make "The Canyons" an intelligently low-down entertainment. Most notably, he scores with Lindsay Lohan, who taps a vulnerability beneath her dissolution to remind you why she's still a movie star.