Of the 14 who have reviewed it so far, three thought it was pretty good — and they're even reputable critics
Eleven others, however, really hated it, giving the indie film an early 21 percent “rotten” rating on nationwide critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Lohan and porn star James Deen star as a young, privileged Hollywood couple whose relationship takes a dark turn when Deen learns of Lohan's affair with an aspiring actor and former flame, played by Nolan Gerard Funk (“Glee”). According to the film's synopsis, Deen's cruel mind games escalate into an act of bloody violence.
Village Voice critic Stephanie Zacharek is among the few who gave Schrader and Ellis’ retro vision of moral decay in Tinseltown a positive review.
“A movie can be highly imperfect, stilted, or implausible in all sorts of ways — and still be everything you go to the movies for,” Zacharek wrote. “‘The Canyons,’ Paul Schrader‘s contemplation of moral decay in Hollywood, is that kind of picture, in some places so crazy-silly you want to laugh and in others so piercing you can't turn away.”
“Lohan may not go as deep or as far as Brando, but with her puffy skin, gaudy hoop earrings and thick eye makeup, there's a little-girl-lost quality to the onetime Disney teen princess that's very affecting,” Foundas wrote in his praise for the film. “Whenever she's onscreen, she projects a sense of just barely holding on to that precarious slide area in the shadow of the Hollywood sign.”
So far, Zacharek and Foundas are in the critical minority.
While New York Daily News critic Joe Neumaier gave subtle props to Lohan, who he says is “the main attraction and proves watchable,” he faults Schrader and Ellis for his “boredom.”
“If there was anyone who could tap Lohan's notoriety to save her from pop-culture punch line, it's Schrader,” Neumaier wrote. “He tries to use Lohan's limited range in her favor, but the banal script, from ‘American Psycho’ novelist Bret Easton Ellis, feels like a Schrader parody. One effort at ‘Gigolo'-like neon-lit perversion looks more like an orgy in a laser-tag park.”
The New York Post‘s Lou Lumenick called “The Canyons” the “most boring” movie he's seen this year and was not impressed by Deen's cinematic debut outside of pornography.
“Forget the rumors of explicit sex — I've seen high school hygiene films that are steamier than this snoozer, notwithstanding the underwhelming ‘mainstream’ debut of popular porn star James Deen, who shouldn't give up his day job,” Lumenick wrote.
Indiewire critic Eric Kohn was impressed by the film's opening credit sequence — populated with images of deteriorating movie theaters — but not much else.
“Paul Schrader‘s miscast, poorly executed and utterly soulless drama is an example of the failing art form it seeks to indict,” Kohn wrote. “Though it has real ideas, Schrader and his team never manage to put them into action.”