Right up front, I want to make it clear that I was rooting for The Canyons. I want Lohan to be okay! James Deen is compelling, as human beings go! Paul Schrader! Taxi Driver! Bret Easton Eeuuuuugghhhh...uhhhmmm...a fourth thing! So it is with no preconceived grudge whatsoever that I must inform you that looololllololoololooloollollolol this movie is DOODOOOOOO.
The Canyons is a five-hour-long slow-motion reel of white dudes jacking off. Not literally—at least that would have a climax! Zing! But conceptually, it's just bored white people being dicks to each other because they're so bored and they're so trapped by their boredom and isn't it fascinating how trapped and bored they are and isn't white boredom truly the defining struggle of our age? EAT THEIR MALAISE. EAT IT. BECAUSE THEY SAID SO. And haven't you noticed how pretty white women are pretty, but they're always being owned by the wrong bored white dude? You shouldn't be owned by that dude—he's a jerk! You should be owned by a better dude: ME! Let us fight over which one of us dudes is better at knowing what's best for silly women! Also, GOD FORBID ANYONE EVER GETS AN ACTUAL FUCKING JOB.
There are a lot of bad things about The Canyons—the moving, the talking, the simultaneous moving and talking, the plot, the ideas, the people, the places, the stuff—but my favorite bad thing about it is the script. I know the Notorious B.E.E. prides himself on being super raw and rill and tellin' it like it is and doing the young-people talk like how they talk it on the streets, but the dialogue in The Canyons comes off more like someone let a random word generator watch too much World According to Paris. One wonders: Has Bret Easton Ellis actually met a person before, or is this some sort of feral child situation? (JK, wolves are way better at human empathy! Zong!)
Let's take a look at my favorite pieces of totally realistic and human dialogue that the humans speak in The Canyons.
1. So, Lindsay Lohan plays Tara, a pretty woman ("she's hot!" - this movie, every 12 seconds) who dates Christian (James Deen), a Snidely Whiplash type who calls everyone "babe" and only wears clothes that are black, like his heart, because SYMBOLS. In the opening scene, Christian and Tara are having fancy dinner with another couple when Christian starts telling them for no reason about how he likes to make Lohan do sex with random people that he finds on his #1 fave "phone app": "You know that phone app? Amore? It's like Adult Friend Finder. It makes things...simple." Lohan is grumpy about it, because she is probably on her period, which is a type of bitch infection that women get in their underpants.
CHRISTIAN: "I love her. She's gorgeous. But it's more fun to keep it a little complicated."
TARA: "Christian. What are you doing? Where are you going with this?"
CHRISTIAN: "Just being transparent, baby."
Then they go home and drink tequila and James Deen makes his PANTS TRANSPARENT!!! Then he pretends to be cunnilingizing Lindsay Lohan's vagina, while some weirdo from the phone app Amore—maybe you've heard of it?—sits on a chair and masturbates his penis. And scene.
2. James Deen is using his trust fund to finance some dumb slasher movie so he can get his dad off his back, maaaan. Lohan convinced him to hire this kid named Ryan—who is also the boyfriend of James Deen's assistant, Gina—to be the star of the movie. But, it turns out, Lohan and Ryan have a SECRET PAST! Of sexy intercourse!!! How entertained are you right now!? Lohan and Ryan secretly get together for lunch. WAITER, I'LL HAVE THE CLUMSY EXPOSITION.
RYAN: "I loved you so much, baby, we had so much fun together. I never got over it when you left—it killed me. And I tried so hard to let it go—I tried so hard to let go of it. And just when I think I'm going to make it without you Gina suddenly started talking about her boss's girlfriend. But this girl she described didn't sound anything like you. And when I saw you at that audition—I'm still so in love with you. I don't fuckin' want to be, but I am."
TARA: "I'm with him now. I'm with him."
RYAN: "What are you thinking? You—you think you're going to nail this guy? Move in with him, or what? You think that creep's going to marry you?"
TARA: "Ryan! Don't go there! It's hard for me too, okay? It's hard for me too, that's why I tried helping you with the movie—because I care. You don't have to go and say things that are going to hurt me."
RYAN: "Leave him. Get outta there!"
TARA: "And do what?"
RYAN: "I don't know, Come back to me! We'll get a job! We'll move in together!"
TARA: "Get a job and do WHAT, Ryan! Do you not remember how hard we were busting our asses? Do you remember those days? No, wait, probably not, because you're still living them. I'm not going back to that, Ryan. I'm not going back to going on auditions for jobs I'm never going to get, for bartending for 8 bucks a fucking hour. I'm not gonna do it! Do you remember how hard it was for us? We were always fucking broke, we were busting our asses, we couldn't even pay the fucking rent, Ryan! We couldn't pay the fucking rent! It wasn't fun for me! I'm not going back to that, and I need someone to take care of me, and I needed someone to take care of me."
If there's one thing you should remember about Lohan's character, it's that she's not going back to that, Ryan. (No, seriously, not-going-back-to-that is literally her only personality trait.)
3. James Deen goes over to some blonde lady named Cynthia's whimsy-encrusted seahorse cottage for secret penis time. But then the lady—being a lady and therefore a dumb bag of emotions—tries to kiss James Deen right on his Deen-mouth. James Deen is enraged by the mouth-touching. Turns out, he's all angsty because he thinks Lohan is having an affair (which she is)—so angsty, in fact, that he cannot even hump this blonde lady named Cynthia all the way to the end! Can you believe it?
CYNTHIA: "I think you'd better leave. And I don't think you should come back here."
CHRISTIAN: "And why is that?"
CYNTHIA: "I can't handle this anymore."
CHRISTIAN: "You want some cash?"
CYNTHIA: "No, Christian, I don't need any cash. Just—just get out!"
CHRISTIAN: "Come on, Cynthia."
Seriously though, Cynthia is the Lifetime Original Movie of names.
4. James Deen makes his assistant Gina have lunch with Lohan to try and figure out whether or not she's bonking someone else. (DRAMATIC IRONY: Lohan is bonking someone else, and it's Gina's boyfriend Ryan! Don't forget! It's very dramatically ironic!) Lohan tells Gina that she's very lucky to have found a guy as good as Ryan.
TARA: "Good guys are really hard to come by these days, so you're a very lucky girl."
GINA: "Tell me about it. I can't believe I actually found someone so genuine. He's a great guy."
I am normal human woman doing human-talking. Good guys are genuinely great and good and I actually am glad I found a great genuine good guy girl great guy.
5. I didn't actually transcribe the dialogue here (and I am not watching it again), but Ryan goes to his gay boss Randall's office to ask for more job-hours, and Randall is basically like, "Oh I'll give you a job. A BUH-LOW JOB!!!! THAT'S HOW WE DO IT HERE IN HOLLYWEIRD." My only criticism of this scene is that I feel like they could have framed Randall's gay penis slightly less subtly in the center of the shot near Ryan's face. Like, maybe put Christmas lights on it or something?
6. Christian is still convinced that something is funkay with Lohan and Ryan. So he goes to talk to Gina's best friend, who is a producer and also a gay guy. (He's probably also Randall's boyfriend, because according to this movie there are only six people in Los Angeles and they all have sex with each other.) Christian convinces the gay producer to try and have sex with Ryan "as a prank." BECAUSE SURE. THE NORMAL, REGULAR KIND OF THING THAT HUMANS DO. And then the guy DOES IT. He tells Ryan that they're "reconsidering" his casting in the movie.
PRODUCER GUY: "I can make sure you keep the role."
RYAN: "Yeah? How's that?"
PRODUCER GUY: "Well, I'm going out to Palm Springs this weekend and, well, why don't you come?"
RYAN: "Aren't you going with Billy?"
PRODUCER GUY: "Nope."
RYAN: "You mean me and Gina?"
PRODUCER GUY: "Nope. Just me and you."
RYAN: "Well, sure, why not. But why wait? Let's do it now."
PRODUCER GUY: "Yeah?"
RYAN: "Suck me off, right now, in the office. You know you want to."
Ha ha ha ha ha, coercing someone into unwanted sexual activity by threatening their job! Great "prank"! (Spoiler alert: Later in the movie James Deen "pranks" Cynthia by murdering her!)
7. James Deen checks in with Gina about what she learned during her Lohan lunch.
GINA: "She seemed scared. Kind of anxious. She kind of reminded me of one of those girls in the movies who's being FOLLOWED by somebody."
Did she? Are you sure? Are you sure she seemed like a girl in a movie and not a body pillow with a frowny-face painted on it?
8. Lohan starts getting mysterious texts saying that she's in danger. She sneaks out to go to a secret meeting with the texter, who—surprise—is Cynthia again. Classic Cynthia! Then they have the greatest "conversation" ever committed to paper on purpose:
TARA: "Oh, Cynthia. You really don't have a clue, do you? You don't know anything about me and Christian, do you? All right. You know what? Lay it out, babe. what kind of trouble am I in?"
CYNTHIA: "Tara, you know, I have enough of a clue to get in contact with you. Because I think you need to get out of this relationship. I think you need to get away from him."
TARA: "Really? Why?"
CYNTHIA: "Because he's SICK. He's a SICK LITTLE BOY."
TARA: "Go on."
CYNTHIA: "Everything became clarified for me. When things got out of hand."
CYNTHIA: "I found myself in the emergency room at UCLA."
TARA: "Hmmmm. How did that happen?"
CYNTHIA: "Christian decided to invite a bunch of guys over to the house."
TARA: "And you let him."
CYNTHIA: "No. Actually I didn't—I was passed out."
TARA: "Hehe. And whose fault was that, Cynthia? Hm?"
CYNTHIA: "Your precious Christian decided to crush up a bunch of Roofalin in a drink that he gave me."
TARA: "I never called him precious, first of all. Maybe that was your name. Second of all, it's Rohypnol."
CYNTHIA: "You know what I meant."
TARA: "Third of all, I don't believe you."
CYNTHIA: "Really. You don't."
TARA: "So what are you saying, Cynthia? What are you saying? That you didn't let yourself get gangbanged? That you had no control—"
CYNTHIA: "He filmed the entire thing and then he threatened to put it up on different sites if I said anything to anybody!"
TARA: "Obviously you weren't in control of Christian. I am."
CYNTHIA: "I'm telling you this because I think he's going to hurt you in the same way."
TARA: "No, you're telling me this because you're jealous and a little drunk. GOD, it's such a girl thing to do. Look, Christian's not going to hurt me. If anything, I'm the one that's going to hurt him."
I would like to create some sort of pagan harvest festival built around this scene. We could call it Roofalinalia and we'd build a giant Cynthia out of straw and gourds, and then on the last night, whomever the council chose to be that year's Lohan could light the Cynthia on fire while everyone chants, "LAY IT OUT, BABE! HEHE! HEHE! HEHE! LAY IT OUT, BABE! HEHE! HEHE! HEHE!"
9. Ugh, Jesus Christ, we're only like halfway done. I'm so angry-bored. The irritating thing about The Canyons is that its creators seem to think the key to "art" is just presenting mundane, hollow moments and then waiting for the audience to imbue them with meaning. Dude, that's your job. Point to something. Show me something. Say something that means something.
Anyway, next, the following things happen: James Deen swaps Lohan's phone for a fake phone and starts surveilling her and Ryan. Lohan and James Deen have an awkward disco orgy at their house and Lohan makes James Deen get a BJ from a dood. James Deen sends a guy in a backwards hat to follow Ryan around, so Ryan is like, "Tell Christian I know what he's doing! Aggro male punch punch!" Also you find out that Ryan used to date Cynthia too (BECAUSE AGAIN: ONLY SIX PEOPLE IN LOS ANGELES). James Deen uses "hacking" to douche Ryan's bank account of all of his Ryan-bucks. Lohan gets something out of the fridge and doesn't close it all the way and I am still annoyed about it. Ryan tells Gina that he's been humping Lohan. Gina tells Ryan that he'll never work in this town again, like we've all been sitting around caring about his career. Lohan finally notices that there's something weird about her phone.
"This can't be my phone."
LINDSAY LOHAN: PHONE DETECTIVE.
10. In the film's only truly compelling scene, Lindsay Lohan tiptoes around James Deen—a slumbering monster—searching for her missing phone. Deen's acting is a bit shaky, in general, but he has simmering menace down pat. His presence is viscerally unsettling. When Deen roars awake and throws Lohan to the floor, you catch a glimpse of how The Canyons could have been a biting examination of the psychology of abuse—of how control masquerades as love, how it self-perpetuates, why victims stay with their monsters. (Lovelace, coming out Friday, actually does a credible job of this.) Instead, it's just empty men acting upon emptier women. It's the Skinemax take on rich white malaise—the most exhaustively-plumbed subject matter on earth. (For a recent, more compelling exploration of aspirational emptiness, see the Bling Ring.)
And then, BACK TO THE GOOF SHIT. Here's James Deen leaving the climactic monologue on Ryan's voicemail:
"Yeah, it's me. You there? I got your little message. Ryan, Ryan, Ryan. Poor poor Ryan. It all seemed so exciting when you were 18 and the photographer found you, drove from Michigan all the way out to Los Angeleees. Yeeeeah, Hollywood. Ane you were suddenly so far away from that shithole town you grew up in, so you did some modeling shoots and everyone was so encouraging. You even did a commercial or two. Saw one on YouTube. For Pringles. You looked like a fucking moron. Then what, huh? Nothing. Nada. So now you're bartending with the occasional hotel gig to supplement your income—that's because Randall wants to fuck you up the ass. Who knows, you probably let him. He probably has. What happened last summer at the Post Ranch Inn? You tell Gina about that? I doubt you told Gina all about that romantic drive all the way up the coast to the Post Ranch Inn. And then BAM. You reconnect with Tara last July. And then BAM, she convinces everyone to cast you in a movie you're not even capable of acting in. And then BAM, you're fucking my girlfriend, and BAM, you convince Cynthia to tell everyone some bullshit story? So what, huh? You get Tara to dump me? So you guys can what, run away together? Get married? So you can what—coexist in some dump of a house somewhere? You think Tara's going back to that kind of life? You think she's going to that lifestyle again? If you want my advice, Ryan, go back to Michigan and get over it, you clueless little motherfucker."
Someone's been working hard at Toastmasters!!!
11. Then James Deen murders Cynthia. Because sure. He tells Tara that if she doesn't give him an alibi, he's going to murder Ryan and get away with it, because okay. "Nod for me, baby. That's a good girl." Then they break up, I guess.
Cut to a few years later, or something. Tara is having some vapid dinner with boring, bored white people, when this girl goes:
GIRL: "We have a friend in common."
GIRL: "Christian? Didn't you used to go out with him?"
DUN DUN DUUUUNNNNNN. And then that girl goes in the bathroom and makes a secret phone call and you think she's calling Christian because he's still having Tara spied on but then it cuts to the other end of the line and it's actually Ryan who's checking up on Tara and then he LOOKS RIGHT INTO THE CAMERA AND IT MEANS SOMETHING.