Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis’ Lifestyles of the Rich and Dangerous.
An underrated and frequently misunderstood exercise in surfaces and cosmetics. The Canyons feels like an episode of an LA reality TV show as seen through a shattered black mirror. Everything looks glacial: overlit and severe digital photography, locations frost-bitten with reflective surfaces – glass and mirrors at every turn – and actors cherry-picked from industries or controversies where looks and celebrity are the primary currency. It all feels so hollow, from the way the voices echo in Christian’s vacuous LA house to the empty silences in conversations on dinner dates or Hollywood boulevard. Notice how Schrader lets the sounds of the busy street or surrounding hustle bustle fill those silences to further enhance the void.
The performances too are pitched at a distance, at an odd disconnect. They’re intentionally performative, like performances found in porn movies or reality TV: actors trying to forge a believable human connection before something more visceral can take place – violence, sex, confrontation. From the casting choices, it’s clear that all of this is especially calculated. Schrader embraces the baggage that comes with Lindsay Lohan – an actress perceived to be broken and twisted by celebrity – and gives her a role in which to prove herself. Watching her performance is like watching a plastic doll find a pulse and break free of being a possession. She’s excellent. James Deen, while certainly a lesser actor, is used to effectively too, as the typically Bret Easton Ellis-esque trust-fund fuck-boy turned preening psychopath.
At one point Lohan’s Tara asks a movie producer, “Do you really like movies?” When the producer fails to recollect the last movie they went to see at the cinema, Schrader’s pointed montage of desolate and abandoned movie theatres at the film’s start suddenly comes into focus. Mirrors and surfaces have finally replaced the movie screen.