Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
Available on VOD beginning Friday, the IFC Films release casts a voyeuristic eye on Los Angeles couple Tara (tabloid fixture Lindsay Lohan, Liz & Dick) and Christian (porn star James Deen, Anal Buffet 8). They’ve been together for one year, but their bedroom — and other areas of their pleasure pad — often plays host to guest stars. By that, I mean that they’re into threesomes and foursomes, or Tara having sex with a stranger while Christian watches and commemorates the event on his phone.
Outside the home, Christian is working on getting a movie off the ground. The young man he’s recruited to star in the project, Ryan (Nolan Funk, House at the End of the Street), is secretly meeting — and screwing — Tara. And when the idea of intercourse is neither the idea of nor involves Christian ... well, that’s cheating. Even coked-up, control-freak, pretty-boy, trust-fund babies have moral standards, it seems.
“I never thought this movie would get made,” Christian says at one point, and I’m sure director Paul Schrader shares the sentiment. After months of schizophrenic Kickstarter trailers, the low-budget effort arrives amid more curiosity than hype, yet resembles an episode of Showtime’s Red Shoe Diaries: less gauzy-lensed, perhaps, but retaining every bit of soul-crushing dullness.