You’ve got to figure it wasn’t because she was willing to work for $100 per diem that director Paul Schrader cast Lindsay Lohan in the leading role of his intensely tracked, controversial new film, The Canyons. After all, Paul Schrader cast Richard Pryor in his first dramatic role in Blue Collar. Paul Schrader wrote Taxi Driver and adapted Raging Bull for the big screen. Paul Schrader is first and foremost a storyteller, and you can bet his teamup with Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho, Less Than Zero), who wrote the screenplay for The Canyons, means he has a story he really wants to tell. Exactly how Lohan figured into that vision may be up for debate, but we’ll give Schrader the benefit of the doubt for the time being.
Schrader, Ellis, and producer Braxton Pope made The Canyons completely independent of the Hollywood system, even funding the film through Kickstarter to avoid the meddling of executives, financiers, and other outside voices. This means the controversial modern noir film we’re presented with is exactly what the trio set out to make. These guys are non-conformists. Their goal is to deliver shock and critical outrage. With The Canyons opening today (Friday), and simultaneously available on demand and iTunes, they may have hit the bulls-eye. The Canyons is being called everything from a “brilliant erotic thriller” to “vulgar trash.”
Richard Brody, critic for The New Yorker, says The Canyons is not so much a character study as a world study. The characters are accepted as pariahs, but they are pariahs who risk becoming victims just to have a chance to live a sumptuous high-stakes life. Sex , money, and power – The Canyons in a nutshell.
The story is straightforward. Hollywood social climber Tara (Lindsay Lohan) teams up with rich, spoiled, elitist Christian (porn star James Deen), who makes movies to keep his Dad off his back. Tara’s struggling former flame Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk, taking a break from Glee to gritty up his image) is now involved with Christian’s secretary Gina (Amanda Brooks, D-War, Cut-Off), who has secured him a small role in Christian’s latest film. Christian’s real interest is making porn movies on his cell phone of Tara and whoever else might be willing.
The New York Times states that in The Canyons, “the existential hero has been replaced by the ironic hero, the guy who doesn’t ask ‘to be or not to be,’ but the guy who asks ‘who cares?’ “