The Canyons Movie Review
Movies that allow us to wallow in a trashy story for a couple of hours can often become a guilty pleasure, and this lurid concoction blends the skills of Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) and Paul Schrader (American Gigolo) for an entertaining story of sexual depravity with Hitchcockian overtones. It's a bit clumsy and corny, but the characters and situations hold our interest simply because we have no idea where it's heading.
In the canyons around Malibu, independently wealthy Christian (Deen) has decided to produce a low-budget slasher movie starring the sexy actor Ryan (Funk), boyfriend of Christian's assistant Gina (Brooks). Christian's girlfriend Tara (Lohan) is trying to stay out of all of this, but Christian keeps telling everyone about their wild sex life with random third and fourth partners. Their one rule is that they won't lie to each other, but both are keeping secrets: Tara has started seeing Ryan, who's actually her ex, while Christian is sleeping with his yoga teacher (Houston). And when these secrets emerge, trouble follows.
Christian is the usual Ellis protagonist, a guy with no real moral centre: his whole life seems lifted from the movies, and Deen plays him as a preening peacock, arrogantly sure he is in control of everything. He's a charismatic villain, and Deen commands the screen. But Lohan gives just as good as the more emotional Tara, who is a bundle of naivete and duplicity, driven by insecurity and just as power-mad as Christian, really. Opposite them, Funk and Brooks are playing the innocents caught in their depraved web, so they're the ones we can identify with.
While mixing the soapy plot with gritty realism, Schrader never completely submerges us in the hedonistic mayhem. Sure, there's plenty of sex, including a murky and vaguely intense foursome, but the whole point seems to be to portray this lifestyle as vacuous and essentially dangerous. Much more interesting is the story's depiction of the movies, from the stills of closed-down cinemas to Christian's ubiquitous phone-cam, with which he videotapes everything that happens. "Nobody has a private life anymore," he says smugly, diving into another of his power games. But the idea that he's in control is just an illusion.