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Tom Tangney

'The Canyons' isn't a comeback role for Lindsay Lohan

Actress Lindsay Lohan has her first starring role in a movie in over six years in the new film, "The Canyons." As it turns out making the film was almost as sordid as the world the movie depicts.

Actress Lindsay Lohan has had a rocky career to say the least. A child star, thanks to Disney hit remakes like "The Parent Trap" and "Freaky Friday," Lohan has had a difficult transition into adulthood. She's been in and out of rehab and jail so many times, it's easy to forget she used to act at all. She's spent more time carousing with the likes of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and the Kardashians than working in front of the camera.

But now, at the ripe-old age of 27, Lohan hopes she's on the comeback trail. She has teamed up with veteran director Paul Shrader (the guy who wrote the classic, "Taxi Driver," and directed a young Richard Gere in "American Gigolo" and author Bret Easton Ellis, of "American Psycho" fame, to make a movie about the seedier side of low-budget Hollywood filmmaking. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, just about everything.

The New York Times earlier this year did a 7,500 word piece on the hassles of filming "The Canyons." The article was titled "Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie." She was perpetually late or sick or hungover. Lohan showed up so late for her first day of filming, she was fired on the spot. She sobbed and pleaded for 90 minutes in front of Shrader's locked hotel room door before he finally relented and re-hired her. And when it came time to film a climactic sex scene, she locked herself in a closet and refused to come out. The 65-year-old Shrader finally coaxed her out by taking all of his clothes off, right there on the set, so that she wouldn't feel so naked herself.

Compounding the problem, the film was made on a shoestring budget, a measly $250,000. The director, the producer, and the screenwriter pitched in $30K each and the rest was raised through Kickstarter. All the actors, including Lohan, were paid a mere $100 a day.

Shrader had hopes the movie would score big at Sundance and the SXSW Film Festival, but it was rejected by both groups. IFC, the Independent film Channel, eventually bought the rights for $1 million, so the filmmakers made a small profit. Whether IFC will or not largely depends on the public's interest and/or curiosity. It becomes available on iTunes and all video-on-demand platforms Friday.

I saw the film online Tuesday night and I must say that as much as I wanted to like this film, I couldn't quite do it. It's billed as an erotic thriller, but I found it not the least bit thrilling or erotic. The acting is alternately stilted and overdone. And the screenplay is awash with flat and unnatural dialogue.

Lohan isn't terrible in the film. She plays a washed up actress who's living with a creep of a boyfriend, a cocky 20-something who lives off his trust fund. To pass the time, he hires people to watch him make love to his girlfriend.

Lohan's role is close enough to her own wasted lifestyle that it feels autobiographical even if it's not. And it's that gossipy parallel universe that gets in the way of our appreciation of her performance. It's nearly impossible for us to not wonder whether we're getting a glimpse at the real Lindsay or the "acting" Lindsay.

That may be unfair to the 27-year-old actress - she looks at least a decade older in this film, by the way - but she brought that unfairness on herself, I'm afraid.

"The Canyons" opens with a stunning series of still shots of trashed or abandoned movie theatres. It's such an effective tone-setter that it sets up expectations of a dark, brooding movie about lost dreams, maybe the death of hope. But that film, unfortunately, never materializes.

Instead we get a listless parade of set pieces that neither the actors nor their characters seem very interested in. And that goes double for the sex scenes.

Lindsay Lohan's comeback will have to wait.

Tom Tangney, KIRO Radio Host, Film & Media Critic
Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.
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By day, you can hear Tom on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, and by night, he sits in the dark, making snide comments about what he sees on the silver screen.

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