The Canyons

Well, America, what do you want from a film scripted by erstwhile literary bad boy and occasional Twitter firebrand Bret Easton Ellis, directed by tortured recovering Calvinist Paul Schrader, and starring Troubled Actress Lindsay Lohan and Porn Star Next Door James Deen (plus Gus Van Sant in a bit part as a shrink)? Will you settle for The Canyons? A stilted allegory of moviedom’s moral bankruptcy, with cheesily expository dialogue, wafer-thin performances, and more or less a vacuum where any tension should be, Schrader’s film contemplates erotic intrigue among youngish yet used-up-seeming Hollywood strivers. Deen plays a swaggering trust-funder and producer of horror schlock who blithely imports swingers to his Malibu manse for hookups with his actress girlfriend, played by Lohan, but then gets lethally possessive when her ex (Nolan Funk) takes a lead role in one of his films. And just as Deen is an inspired choice for a classically Ellisesque moneyed sociopath, so is Lohan for a living icon of entertainment casualty. In one scene, hedging on her real reasons for withdrawing from the project at hand, her character gets in a line of questioning that some of us yearn to put to haters and industry-wannabes alike: “Do you really like movies? When was the last time you saw a movie that really meant something to you?” Meanwhile an austerity of visual style, punctuated by stills of sadly derelict movie-theater facades, underscores the moralizing — and undercuts the fun. Schrader is still most famously the writer of Taxi Driver, who plainly feels at sea in today’s Hollywood. But he hasn’t lost his eye for cultural underbellies, including the sheeny, empty L.A. of The Canyons.