The Canyons (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Schrader|
|Written by||Bret Easton Ellis|
|Edited by||Tim Silano|
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
|Box office||$56,825 |
The Canyons is a 2013 American erotic thriller-drama film directed by Paul Schrader and written by Bret Easton Ellis. The film is set in Los Angeles and stars Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks, and Gus Van Sant. It received a limited release on August 2, 2013 at the IFC Center in New York City, the Bell Lightbox in Toronto, and on video on demand platforms.
Christian (James Deen) is a wealthy young man with ties to Los Angeles' independent film industry, financing low budget horror films. At the start of the film, he is having dinner with his girlfriend Tara (Lindsay Lohan) and his personal assistant Gina (Amanda Brooks) and her boyfriend Ryan (Nolan Funk). Christian recently got Ryan work as a lead in a film he is financing, which he achieved by threatening to revoke his funding for the project if Ryan was not hired. Christian also reveals that he and Tara have an open relationship, as he discusses using dating apps to find partners for the two to hook up with for group sex. Ryan asks if Christian ever gets jealous, but Christian claims that he doesn't, as he then outs Tara as bisexual. He also says that he trusts Tara never to fall in love with anyone he brings into their bed for casual sex. Ryan considers Christian and Tara's casual notions towards sex scandalous but refuses to condemn the two.
When Christian and Tara arrive home, to prepare for arrival of their latest dating app selected romantic partner, Christian derides Ryan as a loser and that Gina could do much better in a boyfriend. Tara meanwhile is unhappy that Christian outed her as a bisexual, which leads her to demand Christian tell her about what he tells his shrink as quid pro quo. Christian refuses and the argument ends abruptly when their the man from the dating app arrives. Christian orders him to get naked, recording the stripping on his phone and then places it on the couch to record the young man masturbating, while he watches Christian perform oral sex on Tara. Meanwhile, at their apartment, Ryan accuses Gina of wanting to have a four-way with Tara and Christian while sending a text on his phone to an unknown party for a meeting the next day. Gina denies wanting to have sex with Tara or her boss, and points out that Tara did not even talk to her at work until she found out about the movie project her friend was working on, which led to the two becoming friends and getting Christian to finance the film.
The text Ryan sent goes to Tara, who meets with him the next day. Through their conversation, it is revealed that the two are former lovers and that Ryan's naive behavior at dinner was an act. The two were struggling actors three years ago and madly in love; however, Tara grew tired of living hand to mouth and dumped Ryan. Since then, Tara has dated a string of wealthy men as she sacrificed her acting career and real love in favor of becoming a kept woman. Tara chides Ryan for texting her, as Christian has a habit of going through her phone's texts and call log to monitor her activities. Ryan, still bitter over their break-up, accuses Tara of degrading herself for a life of luxury and accuses Christian of forcing Tara to degrade herself sexually. Ryan presses Tara on the details of the polygamous lifestyle Christian has the two living, while Tara reminds Ryan that he is in a relationship with Gina and that she helped get the film financed (and Ryan the role as the lead) as a favor to her ex-boyfriend. Gina demands they not see each other again.
Christian visits an actress named Cynthia for casual sex but the encounter nearly ends when he starts choking her. Christian confides that he thinks Tara is cheating on him, and that she has a mystery lunch date planned. As they get dressed, Christian is forced out the house by an upset Cynthia. Tara meanwhile has lunch with Gina, who is told that Tara will not be accompanying her to New Mexico, where Ryan's film is being shot. Gina then gets a call from Christian, who is then told of Tara's decision to stay in Los Angeles.
The film then cuts to Ryan, who is seen doing a beefcake photo shoot in swim trunks and desperately looking to get extra hours tending bar in order to make money. When he talks to the manager about getting extra hours, the manager makes a pass at him before Ryan gets a text, which he uses as an excuse to leave his amorous boss. The text was sent by Gina, who has changed her mind about not wanting to see Ryan. Unfortunately Christian has followed Tara to the house where they are having sex with. Christian goes straight to Gina's friend John, (who is the boyfriend of the film's producer), who is in charge of the CGI SFXs for the film. Christian orders him to pull a "prank" on Ryan: to call him and tell him that his boyfriend wants to get fire him but that, if he sleeps with John, he would make sure that Ryan was not fired from the film. Christian offers to take the blame if the prank goes wrong, but threatens to fire his boyfriend if he refuses to go along with the "prank".
Returning home, Christian grills Tara on her activities that afternoon and the subject of Gina and Ryan's attractiveness. Christian asks Tara if she would have sex with Ryan if she could. Tara denies this as well as previously knowing Ryan. Meanwhile, after returning home and spying Christian's daily schedule on Gina's computer, notices that Christian has regular "yoga sessions" with Cynthia, who Ryan admits to knowing from acting school. Ryan gets a text to meet with John and propositions him per Christian's demand. Ryan shocks John by asking him if he wants to have sex then and there, pulling out his dick so John could blow him then and there if he desires to. The film then cuts to Ryan leaving the building, with it ambiguous if they had sex or not.
Tara starts to receive texts, anonymously asking her about her relationship with Ryan and Christian. Tara announces her intention to go see a movie with a friend named Amber. Before she leaves, Tara takes a shower and Christian steals her phone while she is in the bathroom so he can find out what Tara has been up to. Before she leaves, Christian announces he intends to have a "visitor" come over later for sex. Tara visits Cynthia instead, who is revealed to have been Christian's girlfriend prior to his meeting Tara. Cynthia tells Tara that she needs to leave Christian, pointing out his controlling nature and twisted sexual desires. Cynthia reveals that she sent the texts to Tara and the event that led to her splitting with Christian. Christian drugged her and invited a group of strangers into their house to gangrape her and videotaped the entire thing. When she found out, he brutally assaulted her, sending her to the hospital; at which point Christian threatened to leak the gang rape online if she told anyone about it. Tara rejects Cynthia's warnings and implies she plans to "hurt" Christian.
Christian has a friend hack into Ryan and Tara's Facebook pages and retrieve the texts the two sent as well from their phones. He then has his friend hack into Ryan's bank account to steal his savings, but pauses for a moment after noticing a photo on Ryan's facebook page. Tara returns home, at which point she admits to lying to Christian and that she went to visit Cynthia instead. Christian acknowledges dating Cynthia but denies beating her or arranging her to be gang raped. Suddenly Christian's phone rings, his dating app friend is about to arrive. Christian offers to cancel but Tara insists they go through with it. The couple engages in an orgy with a couple who arrived at the house. During the orgy, the male guest forces himself onto Christian, which Tara eggs on as the male guest give Christian a blow job while Tara watches.
Meanwhile it is revealed that Cynthia was put up to warning Tara by Ryan, with it implied that the two are also former lovers. While wandering through a record/movie store, Ryan realizes he is being stalked. Attacking the man following him, Ryan accuses him of working for Christian (which he denies) and destroys his phone. When Ryan attempts to get money out of his bank account, he finds himself broke and realizes Christian hacked his back account. The next morning, Tara calls Ryan while Christian is asleep but no one answers. When she tries to steal Christian's phone, to make her call, she finds her cellphone with his. Christian wakes up and violently assaults Tara, as he reveals that he knows all about her and Ryan.
Gina meanwhile finds Ryan drinking and ask if anything is wrong. Ryan reveals that he has been through Gina's computer finding out about Ryan (including his seeing a therapist) and then reveals the movie is not going to get made. More so, Ryan reveals that he has been sleeping with Tara behind Ryan and Gina's back. Ryan also reveals that the affair has been going on longer than previously implied; that they had been sleeping with each other for a month, ever since Ryan auditioned for the lead in the film. Gina dumps Ryan, who is unapologetic with his obsession with Tara and then announces she will do whatever it takes to keep Christian from killing the film and have Ryan fired and banned from the set.
At his therapist, Christian is focused solely on complains over how Tara manipulated him into having homosexual relations the night before. Christian rants about his deep seeded need for control over everything in his life, especially Tara and how his interactions with his therapist are not the "real" Christian. It's revealed that Christian's therapy sessions with Doctor Campbell (Gus Van Saint) are not voluntary. That per the terms of the trust fund that Christian lives off of, he must see Doctor Campbell on a regular basis and not miss a single appointment, less his father dissolve the trust fund and leave Christian financially destitute.
The film then cuts to Christian and Ryan, both in their cars driving through downtown Los Angeles as Christian leaves a message on Ryan's voicemail. Christian mocks Ryan's failed acting career and reveals the detailed information he has managed to obtain about Ryan's life and threatens him to leave town. Christian then forces his way into Cynthia's house, where he accuses Cynthia of lying about being drugged and gangraped. Christian also implies that Cynthia is only aiding Ryan in his pursuit of Tara, in order to break up Tara and Christian so she could get Christian back. Cynthia denies Christian's conspiracy theory, but is then promptly murdered by Christian with a knife he brought with him. After killing her, Christian picks up Cynthia's phone as Ryan calls her to warn her of Christian's threatening call. Christian mockingly accuses Ryan of causing Cynthia's murder as he rushes to her home, to find her dead body. Returning home, Christian finds Tara packed up and ready to leave Christian. Christian apologizes for brutalizing her and agrees to let her leave their relationship, on the two conditions: 1. She must give him an alibi for his murder of Cynthia and 2. She must never have any contact with Ryan; if she refuses, he will murder Ryan and use his family's wealth and connections to get away with the crime. Tara agrees and is allowed to leave.
The film ends with a flash forward to several months in the future. Tara has a new boyfriend, having gone to Dubai and has lunch with a friend. The friend asks Tara about Gina's film and her involvement as well as her relationship with Christian. Tara proclaims that she left the film project when she and Christian broke up. The friend brings up Cynthia's death and how no one was ever arrested for the murder, though it's implied by the friend that Christian planted the murder weapon in Gina's car in a failed attempt to frame her for the crime. Tara continues to feign that her relationship with Christian is still on good terms, as the unnamed friend leaves to use the rest room. Once alone, the friend calls someone on her cell phone and reports that Tara is doing well but clearly lying about her being friends with Christian as well as being happy with her life. The final scene shows who the unnamed friend is talking to; Ryan, who's all alone in an empty living room, still madly in love with Tara.
- Lindsay Lohan as Tara
- James Deen as Christian
- Nolan Funk as Ryan
- Amanda Brooks as Gina
- Tenille Houston as Cynthia Grey
- Gus Van Sant as Dr. Campbell
- Chris Zeischegg as Reid
- Victor of Aquitaine as Randall
- Lauren Schacher as Caitlin
- Jim Boeven as Jon
- Philip Pavel as Erik
- Lily Labeau as Young hot girl
Production and marketing
Braxton Pope, Bret Easton Ellis, and Paul Schrader were originally involved in a film project, Bait. When the project lost its financing, Pope, Ellis, and Schrader decided they wanted to make a lower-scale film. Ellis was in charge of writing the script. After it was completed, Pope suggested raising money via Kickstarter. Throughout May–June 2012, the film raised $159,015, with a goal of $100,000 in funding. The budget for the film was $250,000 and the actors were reportedly paid $100 a day.
On July 13, it was announced that Brendan Canning would be scoring the film. On July 18, 2012, the official press release for the movie was published on the Facebook page of The Canyons. On July 24, 2012, it was announced that American Apparel would be supplying the cast with wardrobe and was planning to issue logo T-shirts based on Ellis, The Canyons, and Schrader.
The first teaser was released on YouTube on June 16, 2012. On October 8, a "retro style" teaser trailer was released. IndieWire called The Canyons one of the "50 Indie Films We Want To See In 2013" in January 2013. On August 2, 2013, rapper Kanye West released a new version of the trailer; he worked with Nate Brown on the re-editing and created new music with Noah Goldstein.
Following the film's release, Schrader accused Lohan of not supporting the film, saying she had pulled out of interviews and never showed up for promotional photo sessions.
In the docu-series Lindsay, which chronicles (in eight one-hour episodes) Lohan's return from her sixth stay in rehab for addiction and her attempts to revitalize her career, she claimed that she did not end up promoting The Canyons, specifically its Venice Film Festival screening, because it would have placed her in a situation that compromised her sobriety.
Casting of The Canyons was operated through the casting website Let It Cast by providing all actors interested in auditioning for the five lead roles and one supporting role with download access to the audition scene to film their own video audition and submit themselves. As Pope and Ellis explained in the casting's presentation video on Let It Cast, the motivation to operate the casting in this fashion was to facilitate submissions from talented actors who might not otherwise be seen given the time constraints of the traditional casting process, as well as to open a direct channel to actors whose talent agents might otherwise complicate the process. Paul Schrader wrote a full account on the process of casting the seven actors which were ultimately cast through their Let It Cast audition in this fashion. Actors Lindsay Lohan and James Deen were cast independently of this process.
Although Schrader, Ellis, and Pope initially favored French actress Leslie Coutterand (who auditioned through Let It Cast), the role of Tara ultimately went to Lindsay Lohan. When Pope approached Lohan's manager about the possibility of Lohan playing the role of Cynthia (the yoga instructor), Lohan responded that she wanted to play the lead. Two weeks later, she screen tested and was cast. Pope said, "She's very charismatic and she has a lot of acting skills...So for this part, we felt that she was really the right actor for a host of different reasons." Fleur Saville was also considered for the role of Tara.
Early on, the filmmakers considered casting Sean Brosnan as Christian, but later, they wanted to cast somebody "more edgy and unexpected". Ellis had mentioned several times that he had Deen in mind for Christian's role and when he, Pope and Deen met, Deen was promised a screen test. Schrader was reluctant at first, because he thought it was unlikely he would cast him due to his background in porn. After being surprised by Deen's acting abilities and charisma, Schrader was still reluctant to cast him but with Ellis and Pope were collectively intrigued by the idea of casting Lohan and Deen in the leads and ultimately did. Other actors that had been considered for Christian's role were Alex Meraz and Daren Kagasoff among others.
Funk was cast as Ryan. Other actors who had been considered for Ryan's role included gay porn star Sean Paul Lockhart, Alex Ashbaugh, who was cast in a different role, Zach Roerig, and Chris Schellenger, who was also given a different, smaller role in the film.
Gina was cast through Let It Cast. The primary selection criteria were: who would be the best counterpoint to Lohan, in physical appearance and personality. After many auditions, Brooks was cast. Other actresses who had been considered were Spencer Grammer and Jessica Morris, among others.
Cynthia was originally called Lindsay, but her name was changed so she wouldn't be confused with Lohan. She was also cast through Let It Cast, and the primary criterion for the actress was to balance Lohan and Brooks.
In tertiary roles, Boeven was cast as Jon, and Aquitaine was cast as Randall. Philip Pavel, who was cast as Erik, had also been considered, among others.
Caitlin's character was originally supposed to be cast through Let It Cast, but was ultimately cast through mobli, because Pope had wanted to cast Caitlin through mobli. Lauren Schacher was cast.
When asked about casting The Canyons, Ellis stated: "Dealing with the casting of The Canyons was a great, liberating process—for both the production team and for actors in general. We used Let It Cast and saw some amazing actors that we will definitely keep in mind for future projects. The way the entire cast came together so quickly was a thrill and everyone who landed their roles deserved them. Using social media as a way to help build a film is really like riding the wave into the future." Pope said, "Nothing about this film was orchestrated in a traditional way. We wanted to actively embrace all the digital and social media tools at our disposal and give the film real cinematic value—The Canyons is the result of a forward thinking experiment with a terrific cast." Schrader said: "Bret Easton Ellis' characters are beautiful people doing bad things in nice rooms. Lindsay Lohan and James Deen not only have the acting talent; they also have that screen quality that keeps you watching their every move."
Filming and editing
Principal photography began in July 2012 with the shooting of the first six minutes of the film in the bar of the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles. Many key scenes were shot at the Malibu home of designer Vitus Mataré. Filming was moved to Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles after a failed attempt to film at the Santa Monica Promenade. Scenes were also shot in Amoeba Records on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood and Cafe Med restaurant at Sunset Plaza, West Hollywood, as well as Palihotel Melrose and The Churchill bar of The Orlando Hotel, both in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Schrader says about filming The Canyons: "...we’re making art out of the remains of our empire. The junk that’s left over. And this idea of a film that was crowdfunded, cast online, with one actor from a celebrity culture, one actor from adult-film culture, a writer and director who have gotten beat up in the past—felt like a post-Empire thing. And then everything I was afraid of with Lindsay and James started to become a positive. I was afraid we wouldn’t be taken seriously and people would think it was a joke. My son and daughter didn’t want me to do it. That just shows you how conservative young kids are.
The rough cut of the film was 1 hour 44 minutes long. Initial edits of the film were disappointing; the film was said to "drag". Ellis, Schrader and Pope had a disagreement over the final cut of the film. After Schrader showed Steven Soderbergh the rough cut of the film, Soderbergh offered to cut it within three days. Schrader declined, telling The New York Times: "The idea of 72 hours is a joke, it would take him 72 hours to look at all the footage. And you know what Soderbergh would do if another director offered to cut his film? [Puts up two middle fingers] That’s what Soderbergh would do." Ellis is quoted as saying: "The film is so languorous. It's an hour 30, and it seems like it's three hours long. I saw this as a pranky noirish thriller, but Schrader turned it into, well, a Schrader film."
On Ellis' Podcast, he claims to now have a new appreciation of the film, saying he had trouble at first accepting Schrader's vision of his material, but in the end, has come to an understanding over his reservations during the creative process. He also openly praises Lohan's performance, calling it "searing," and blames the film's perceived 'failures' on Lohan's reputation in the media, which has nothing to do about the film's quality or her performance in the film. He continued with saying he believes The Canyons to have ended up as being a success both creatively and financially for all those involved. He concludes with saying he is very proud of the final product.
The film was not accepted by the Sundance Film Festival, but was scheduled for sale in January 2013 by William Morris Endeavor. It was also publicly rejected by SXSW citing they had "quality issues" with the film, which enraged director Paul Schrader, who was very proud of his final film. IFC Films bought the rights to distribute the film theatrically, accompanied by a special screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (on July 29, 2013) featuring a conversation session with director Paul Schrader and the film critic/New York Film Festival Program Director Kent Jones. It was released on August 2, 2013 in the United States at the IFC Center in New York City, the Bell Lightbox in Toronto, and on video on demand platforms. It was shown in the out of competition section at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. The film was also featured on the cover of the July/August 2013 (Volume 49/Number 4) issue of Film Comment Magazine, featuring a full centerpiece article on the film's production. The issue also featured an article, by Schrader, on the hardships and merits of working with Lindsay Lohan.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 23% approval rating based on 86 reviews, with an average score of 4/10. The site's consensus says the film "serves as a sour footnote in Paul Schrader's career—but it does feature some decent late-period work from Lindsay Lohan". At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 36, based on 29 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star gave the film one out of four stars, calling it "a howlingly bad soap-opera-meets-soft-core-porn mash-up". Writing for The Village Voice, Stephanie Zacharek praised Lohan's performance, likening her Tara character to "a nectarine on the far side of ripening, and this isn't a story about innocence lost—she sold that off long ago. But there's a dreaminess about her that could never crystallize into hardness." Zacharek also wrote that the "nuts and bolts of the plot are the least interesting things" about the film.
While the negative response to the film was overwhelming, The Canyons also received praise. In a glowing review, Richard Brody wrote in The New Yorker that movie "isn’t a study in character but a view of the world; it’s a masterful setting of mood", praising Deen for doing "terrific job exuding a sense of imperious entitlement" and saying that Lohan's "performance itself is electrifyingly alive". Jason Shawhan's Nashville Scene review claimed "Lohan tears into this role with fierce energy, walking the fine line between dominance and desperation." Kent Jones also highly praised the film in Film Comment as "a visually and tonally precise, acid-etched horror story of souls wandering through a hyper-materialist hell, with a fearless and, I think, stunning performance by Lindsay Lohan at its center. On another level, it’s an inspiration and an example to us all: it’s difficult for me to imagine another filmmaker of Paul Schrader’s stature diving into the world of crowd-sourced moviemaking, let alone with such fervor, dedication and rigor."
The Canyons was screened as a part of the 14th Melbourne Underground Film Festival and won four awards:
- 'Best Female Actor' for Lindsay Lohan
- 'Best Screenplay' for Bret Easton Ellis
- 'Best Foreign Director' for Paul Schrader
- 'Best Foreign Film.'
Although she received much praise, Lindsay Lohan was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress of 2013 for her work in the film. She lost to Tyler Perry for his performance as playing the elderly female character 'Madea' in his film adaptation of his play A Madea Christmas.
The Canyons made its DVD and Blu-ray debut on November 26, 2013 courtesy of MPI Media Group. The release included a 100 minute 'Unrated Director's Cut' of the film. The new cut of the film only runs about a minute longer than the version that was in theaters and video on demand. During a "live tweet" session of the film on Twitter, where Bret Easton Ellis via his own Twitter account and Paul Schrader using The Canyons' account, discussed their feelings on and experiences with making the film- while viewers watched from home. Here they confessed that a sex scene had to be edited down for the final cut. A sex scene at the beginning of the film, which featured the characters of Tara, Christian and Reid (Danny Wylde), had to have cuts made to meet the content standards of iTunes. Thus the shots of Reid indulging in masturbation had to go, since they were unsimulated, unlike the other sexual content shown in the film. These shots were included in the version of the film shown at the Film Society of Lincoln Center screening but did not appear in the theatrical or video on demand edit. These shots are restored in the 'Unrated Director's Cut' available on Blu-ray and DVD. A DVD has also been made available featuring the edited version, which the MPAA gave an R Rating to in the United States.
Debuting only at the IFC Center in the U.S., the film earned $13,351 by the end of its opening weekend. On video on demand and iTunes, the film was said to do "extremely well". The film has grossed a total of $56,825 in United States and $265,670 all around the world. IFC Films has not released the Video on Demand profits of the film, but Bret Easton Ellis, on his Podcast, claimed "The Canyons was, something like, the number one Video on Demand film IFC released last year. The film has made a profit."
|The Canyons (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Brendan Canning with Me&John|
|Released||July 30, 2013|
|Genre||Electronic, synthpop, rock|
|Producer||Brendan Canning with Me&John|
- "Canyons Theme"
- "Without the Night" (featuring Adaline)
- "No More Sympathy" (featuring Rob James)
- "Back Home to Michigan"
- "Son of Perdition"
- "Teil Cock"
- "Love, French, Better" - Gold Zebra
- "Soon to Be"
- "Fear" - A Place to Bury Strangers
- "This Isn't Good for You"
- "Driving Sines"
- "Goddamn So High" (featuring Adaline)
- "My Preacher's Daughter" (featuring Adaline)
- "Coming Down" - Dum Dum Girls
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