July 29, 2013 at 10:56 AM ET
All right, no one expected that Paul Schrader's "The Canyons," starring Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen, was going to be the next "Citizen Kane." But there was some hope that Lohan might revive her career (remember "Mean Girls"? or "Parent Trap"?) with a gritty, raunchy movie.
Then again.... Based on early reviews, the low-budget film about the seedy side of Hollywood stars' lives may just push Lohan's career even further down the slide it's been on for years.
Here are some reasons not to see (or to see, if you're into masochism) the beleaguered starlet's film, "The Canyons," according to critics — with one notable exception:
Been here, done this
"Canyons" scriptwriter Bret Easton Ellis was fresh and new after penning "Less Than Zero" in 1985, and red-hot in 1991 with "American Psycho," but his stories of the beautiful drowning in wealth, decadence, drugs and ennui is dated. With "Canyons" he's back on well-trodden territory, and there's not even Robert Downey Jr. around to liven things up. Lohan's co-star James Deen plays Christian, who is "blasé, conceited and narcissistic" and a "trust fund baby with a stunning hillside Malibu pad," writes Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter, but he's "a pale brother to Ellis's totemic character of the 1990s, Patrick Bateman, in 'American Psycho.'"
There'd be serious character flaws, if these characters were remotely interesting
Though psycho, Bateman was at least fascinating. Watching bad people do bad things can work, but there has to be some meat on the bones. "These bozos aren't lively enough to even get cast on a reality TV show, much less be the focus of written drama where some psychological and emotional dimensions are normally expected," notes McCarthy. Along those lines, FilmDaily's John Hazelton has a slightly more positive attitude: The film, he writes, turns out "to be a fitfully intriguing but ultimately aimless psychosexual thriller about pretty young things behaving badly in Hollywood."
It's not even so bad it's good
Cult films can be terrible, yet weirdly compelling. "Canyons" doesn't even seem destined for midnight showings to drunk college students. "Far from the renegade, boundary-pushing, sexually explicit sensation that its makers have been suggesting, 'The Canyons' is a lame, one-dimensional and ultimately dreary look at peripheral Hollywood types not worth anyone's time either onscreen or in real life," says McCarthy.
And the sex is boring
Top priority if you're making a low-budget picture unlikely to make anyone's Top 10 list and you have a prolific porn star on hand: Make the sex awesome. Instead, as Indiewire's Eric Kohn notes, "(T)he mounting scenes of drama don't make the mediocrities especially pronounced so much as they coalesce into a dry, insipid whole." Adds McCarthy, "Any expectations of explicit sex ... are not even approached, much less fulfilled, as there's nothing beyond standard R-rated talk and nudity on hand."
But what about Lindsay?
The New York Times dedicated nearly 7,500 words to the film's production (and Lohan's horrific behavior during filming) in a piece titled, "Here is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie." Kohn offers a post-script in just 10. "Here, Lohan is as bland and unfocused as the material," he wrote. "But even a topless Lohan and a group sex scene lit by swirling neon lights, the story fails to surprise."
But there's always one wild card in the bunch, and that comes courtesy of Variety's Scott Foundas, who can claim the distinction of writing the lone positive review of "The Canyons." (And Lohan noticed: from her court-ordered rehab stint she tweeted a link to it, saying, "Wow...humbled and feeling so much gratitude.")
Foundas loved Deen, who he says "is more than up for the challenge; he holds the camera captive with his chilly, privately amused stare." The picture is Schrader's "most stylish ... in years." And he even compares Lohan's performance to Marlon Brando's in "Last Tango in Paris": "Lohan may not go as deep or as far as Brando, but with her puffy skin, gaudy hoop earrings and thick eye makeup, there’s a little-girl-lost quality to the onetime Disney teen princess that’s very affecting."
So maybe there's hope after all, dubious as a "puffy skin" endorsement is. Will you seek out the highs, and the lows, of "The Canyons"? Let us know below in our "Discuss" section.