RIORI Vol 3, Installment 70: Garry Marshall’s “Georgia Rule” (2007)



The Players…

Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, Felicity Huffman, Dermot Mulroney and Garrett Hedlund, with Dylan McLaughlin, Zach Gordon, Cary Elwes and the always reliable voice of reason in almost every Marshall-helmed flick Hector Elizondo (him usually always being the best part).


The Story…

Lily’s had her fill of her unruly daughter Rachel, what with the dropping out of school, questionable relations, too much obvious, reckless persona and even more reckless, obvious cleavage dripping off of her. So this exasperated mom takes her wild child to Idaho to live with her flinty, no-BS grandmother Georgia, who’s quick to lay down a simple set of rules centered on two things: God’s love and hard work.

This be some sh*t Rachel willfully knows nothing about. Not Lily either, really.

Let’s get ready to rumble!


The Rant…

Christ, hiccups are annoying. You wanna know how stop them? I got a trick, but first we need to know the nature of the beast.

A hiccup (or hiccough if you’re more sophisticated) is a spasm in the diaphragm, that thin muscle beneath the lungs that regulate their respiration. For some unknown reason the thing occasionally gets hinky. You usually breathe without thinking about it. Involuntary. But now and again you swallow too much Corn Pops at once or torpedo a can of PBR and bingo, your diaphragm gets all twitchy. Boink boink boink. It gets irritating, like a burp you can’t release.

Now science doesn’t know what hiccups are for, nor a bonafide way to stop them from happening. There are theories (some involving shotgunning PBRs) that when a foreign element intrudes on our normal breathing practices—some glitch in our standard, smooth-running, Twinkie bolting anatomy—our diaphragm gets mixed signals and suddenly there’s a scratch in our CD.

Here’s how you hack it.

Since breathing is an involuntary thing, as are hiccups, you should get all mindful. To rid yourself of this ant at the picnic you consciously take control of your breathing. Realize you do this normal breathing thing every second without a thought. Take deep, forceful, evenly paced breaths. For me it usually takes about five. Find your center. Breathe deep. You’ll become aware of your diaphragm. You’re controlling it now rather than the other way around. Sure enough after a few monitored breaths the doohickey will calm down and you can get back to that next can of PBR.

That lesson taught—and to get all Robert Fulghum on your collective asses—we can’t avoid hiccups in life. And not just the ingested ones, figuratively and literally. Again, science can’t explain the physical reasons why hiccups happen, but we can all identify with the bullsh*t that throws our routine out of wack. Our life out of wack. Can’t predict it. Can’t control it. Might be big, might be little. But after awhile it sure gets annoying as sh*t. It was all fine yesterday…now what?

In comparison, that’s what it’s like to be involuntary uprooted from your usual state of days and plunked into terra incognito. I’m willing to wager that modern science has a vague idea as to why hiccups happen, but probably due to meager funding and more important stuff like, I dunno, curing AIDS such annoyances like hiccups get slated to the back burner of a banquet kitchen range. That’s 8 burners, BTW.

But when such hiccups happen, sh*t they are annoying. There goes your comfy routine. No bacon with your eggs at breakfast. I gotta take the bus today? What do you mean it’s gonna take six to eight weeks for my winning eBay bid for a first pressing of the Faces’ Long Player album to arrive from London (okay, that was mine. Duh)? Hiccups. Things might seem mox-nix, but when the little, vital sh*t gets hacked, boy oh boy does the week get all kerfuffled.

Kinda like a forced homecoming in Idaho.

Wait. Too abrupt? Idaho? What the f*ck do hiccups have to do with the Gem State?

Quiet now. My blog, my Rule…


Being a parent is never easy. That goes without saying so much than why even say that? Still, as a mom and/or dad you do your best to aim your little ones towards the proper goals in life. Goals you may have reached and were rewarded by or goals that slipped by and wouldn’t want young Dick and/or Jane to miss out on.

But life itself intervenes, and there are hiccups.

Lily (Huffman) has had it up to there with her idful daughter Rachel (Lohan) and her wild child antics. “Antics” is a kind descriptor at best. Don’t even start with the “child” notion. Disrespectful, sexually precocious and simply headed down a path of wreck and ruin. Lily can see what’s happening (since it happened to her), so she feels for—demands—a change of environment for Rachel.

So it’s a bittersweet homecoming (mostly bitter) for Lily with Rachel in tow. Back to Hull, Idaho and see you later San Francisco. Home to Hull where Lily’s flinty, no-BS mom Georgia (Fonda) rules the roost. Grandma don’t take no sass, not pulling one’s weight and absolutely no blasphemy. To say Rachel is out of her element is a serious understatement.

Georgia’s heard all about Rachel from Lily’s cursory calls. Lily is sure that time with grandma with change Rachel’s mind about…everything. It sure did for Lily, and she grew up with her (and fled as fast as f*ck as possible to get the hell out of Dodge). Georgia may be down with lowering the boom on Rachel’s wild ways, but a little on the fence about reeling her boozy, chain-smoking daughter in, too. Apple and tree and all of that.

Neither of Georgia’s girls are gonna get out of Hull intact. Let the kicking and screaming commence…


I usually consult the professional reviews at AllMovie about the films on my chopping block to get an idea of what I might be getting into that week. Now I’m not a skeptic, not really. I’m more of a I’ll-belive-it-when-I-(literally)-see-it kind of guy. Whatever the critic in question bases their opinions about a particular film is subjective. Duh. I often don’t care what they say. I just want an idea of what I’m getting into. I’ll believe it when I see it. Literally.

This time around, I was forced to agree with AllMovie’s assessment of Georgia Rule. I owe critic Derek Armstrong a dinner for his words of caution. He wrote about the movie, and I quote: “Georgia Rule is an icky film.” Icky. There’s an adjective I thought I never use to sum up a film. Lousy? Sure. Bad? Pedestrian but to the point. Icky? That’s telling. And wholly accurate for this family melodrama in desperate need of a shower. The kind viral pathologists need after a solid day’s work. Icky.

Rule has precious little going for it, and that’s a shame since it could’ve been really sharp. There was a lot of family drama to cull from here; intergenerational family drama has been a proven film formula for decades, albeit hackneyed and often warmed over. I’ve learned in my short, misspent, missing the matinees youth that family melodramas almost always have a tired, trite premise (such as Rule‘s: wild grandchild, estranged daughter, steely matriarch who meant well but missed a mark, etc). Such tired tropes are sometimes redeemed by solid acting. Fleshed out characters courtesy of actors—seasoned or giving their best college try—that accept the cards dealt and give a (hopefully) fresh spin on old hat.

A good example of this kind of movie is On Golden Pond, a guilty pleasure of mine. Its plot is terribly derivative, rotten with sappy sentimentality and an all too pat resolution. But I love it. Why? Star Henry Fonda (in his final and only Oscar winning role) is a riot throughout, delivering smart and barbed one-liners throughout the movie bookended by smart, barbed grandfatherly wisdom. He was a hoot.

It was Katherine Hepburn’s swan song also, but she lived for another ripe quarter-century. Her sign off was the classic “mother trying to hold it together” via a warm heart and a plethora of wisdom learned against her crotchety hubby for decades. And key, Henry’s real-life estranged daughter Jane played as the on-film estranged daughter who through shared life behind the camera found an understanding with each other, brittle as it was. It wasn’t brittle for very long in reality. Henry was quite ill during filming, and received his Oscar via his hospital bed facing the TV broadcast of the 1981 Academy Awards, daughter Jane accepting in his stead, teary-eyed and quite proud of her dad.

In Rule, Jane seemed to channel her dad’s character from On Golden Pond. And like her dad in his final film, Fonda’s Georgia is the only fleshed-out character in Rule, despite being another stereotype, albeit acting better than the script dealt. I thank the genes. Her no-nonsense, yet still practical and at the same time unconventional Georgia was the best thing about Rule. The only thing, her being an old poop and all.

The rest of the cast is wooden. A clutch of pretty talented, somewhat reliable character actors playing their dealt hands and coming up trumps. What got under my skin about their performances (Lohan, Huffman, Mulroney, et al) is that they failed to rise above their stereotypes. All predictable, all lame. I mean, I would swear that this movie presaged Lohan’s fall from grace, but her performance—as an example—was so incongruent, so forced I was wishing for the actual off-screen BJ spoke about so frankly made it on-screen (hell, the movie was rated a rare R). A lot of shoehorning drama and deviance going on here.

Speaking of shoehorns, it was never really explained how Huffman’s reedy Lily turned out against Georgia being so strict. It came out that Lily’s dad was a drinker, but that only explained—nay, casually remarked—the chemical/genetic aspect. A drinker myself I know what drives my nasty habit, but regarding a fictional character’s personal descent into the bottle in a movie an audience demands some meat on the bones. With dry (so to speak) Lily all we get are bones. C’mon Garry Marshall, throw us one. If this was Mr Happy Days attempt at being edgy he shoulda stayed in Milwaukee.

Back to the ickiness factor: we couldn’t weld the sour with the (bitter)sweet here. It’s the feeling of stuff feeling forced here that also led to Rule‘s undoing. Marshall seemed well out his depth here. Disregarding his uneven CV, shortly within the first act something screamed derivative, more so than usual with Marshall’s trademark treacle. Don’t misunderstand me. Sometimes the man hits gold. Sometimes. The offbeat Frankie And Johnny. The perennial favorite weepie Beaches. The solid and charming Pretty Woman. These may not be great films, maybe barely good, but they delivered comedy-drama in a golden fashion. Rule in comparison is rusty, creaking along and desperately trying to fit into the mold of Marshall’s above mild triumphs. Nothing works, despite Fonda’s enjoyable performance. Star power counts for nothing here.

And that being said, let us consider the supporting cast, Fonda’s bookends. Lily and Rachel have more in common than either would ever admit. That’s obvious, and also gets dark rather swiftly, if not a bit preachy. Another example of Marshall not sure where to go here. Is Rule a family melodrama, a cautionary tale, a lecture? Is there some mirror action reflecting the Lily/Rachel dynamic regarding the opposite sex? I think so. Is there some kind of unhealthy grieving going on with Mulroney’s “vet” schtick? Maybe, unsure. Is Elwes a sexual predator? Yes and no and ugh. Was Marshall exploiting Lohan’s YA physical attributes here? I say too often and more please. Lots of head scratching, nothing to grab on to. Like I said earlier, well-structured characters delivered by solid actors can elevate a mundane story into interesting entertainment. Short of the mark in Rule, it all being so damned disjointed. Only the work of a Civil War sawbones’ skills could make this movie work. With crossed fingers.

There gradually came a large swath of this movie where I ceased taking notes. It wasn’t as if I oh so engrossed, nor there was nothing else to say. My brain just gave up. I’ve noticed I tend to go on and on and on thrashing movies I dislike, but positive commentary is usually short and sweet. Well, that’s how it should be I think. Good stuff doesn’t need nor invite a ticker-tape. Such flicks speak for themselves. The flipside sometime demands an air strike. Rule fell under the latter. And the irony is that respected actor Fonda caught a lot of heat back in the day with her USO appearance in Vietnam. She got carpet bombed in Rule right that. I almost feel sympathetic.

Now someone get me a glass of water. The breathing method ain’t working here.

*hic*


The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? Relent it. This was awful. Not the worst movie dismantled here at RIORI, but damned close. That is all and good night.


Stray Observations…

  • “If she turns out to be sane…she’s all yours.”
  • Dylan versus Frankenreiter? No question there.
  • “Don’t hit me with fish.”
  • I will not mention the Dread Pirate Roberts.
  • “Not on the mouth.”
  • Jane’s got a nice butt, even at 70. Must’ve been all those aerobic workouts in the 80s.
  • “Go with this one.”
  • I liked not liking Elwes’ sniveling.
  • “Oh, please! You’re a lawyer!”
  • Was it in her contract for Lohan to wear only low-cut?

Next Installment…

Part 1 of a 2 part study examining Spielberg’s missteps (yes, he had a few): The Olympics are supposed to be time for nations to come together for friendly competition and putting politics aside. So what the blue f*ck happened in Munich back in ’72?


RIORI Vol 3, Installment 23: Donald Petrie’s “Just My Luck” (2006)


5671565_PA_2-3Just-My-Luck


The Players…

Lindsay Lohan and Chris Pine, with Fasion Love, Missi Pyle, Samaire Armstrong, Bree Turner and MacKenzie Vega.


The Story…

Ashley has always been gifted with uncanny luck. Without even trying, everything in her upwardly mobile, cosmopolitan life always ends up on the sunny side. From cinching a crucial deal at her job to landing a date with Mr Tall, Dark and Handsome, she has a lucky streak a mile long.

Jake, however, more easily catches a disease than a cab. Perpetually broke, sh*tty digs, managing a going-nowhere pop band who is fast tiring of his empty promises, Jake is the picture of hard luck. It’s not as if he invites his hardships. They just seem to be waiting for ’round every corner.

It only takes a chance encounter between these two opposites for their fates to swap. And it takes no time for either to get what they so desperately need: a reversal of fortune.

Best of luck to both Ashley and Jake. For better and for worse.


The Rant…

A while back I dissected The Canyons starring Lindsay Lohan. It was a bewildering movie; not good and not outright bad. It fell within the confines of The Standard, but befuddled me so that I couldn’t give it a straight rent it or relent it judgment. A first, maybe an only. One of the aspects of the movie was Lohan’s role, Tara, slashing all ties with her prior movies and “good girl” imagery. Before The Canyons, Lilo specialized in comedies, most with a family-friendly bent. Either to satisfy her muse or forcibly eradicate her connections to kiddie fodder, she enlisted in a Paul Schrader-penned, tawdry, Hollywood murder mystery and git nekkid a lot in the process. Again, wasn’t sure what to make of it all. The movie, not the boobie parts.

I guess it ain’t no big shocker after the lampoon Machete and the mutant giallo I Know Who Killed Me that the girl signed up for The Canyons. I mean, what did you expect her to do with her career? Three more installments of Herbie: Fully Loaded? Even I’d go postal as an actor following that route (look what happened to the two Coreys. Same poop, different scoop). I figure The Canyons was her absolute declaration that her Disney days were over, severed with soft-core.

Suffice to say her acting career took a rough turn—an understatement to say the least—after abandoning the comedy market. Hard to say if it was the questionable “adult” roles or unadulterated street drugs (probably both) that undid her sterling career. One could probably also blame Instagram, but don’t ask me for sure.

*wink*

Still she had a good thing going with those simple comedic films. Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, A Prairie Home Companion, all good and entertaining comedies. Her characters were witty, sardonic and enjoyable as well as minimally cloying and tongue-in-cheek (check out her hosting SNL back in the early 00s. She knew which side of the cradle stank the worse). LiLo was funny, had good timing and being a cutie didn’t hurt none.

Things change (again, the street drug thing).

I am willing to wager that this comedy—most likely final comedy—was impetus for the change of direction. This week’s chucklefest began to show the curtains’ edge fraying, but not for a lack of worthwhile material.

More on that later. Now let’s take a walk with Lohan down the streets of NYC, where her fictional as well as actual fate took a turn. Hard to say if it was for the worse…


Being a single gal in New York, as it’s often said, can be tricky. Ask Carrie Bradshaw. Career can get tough. Lots of smarmy, wolfy guys on the prowl. Expenses up the ass. The stress of merely catching a cab could make the most of composed women tear their coppery hair out.

Ashley Albright (Lohan) never has to worry about anything, nabbing a ride or otherwise. The ley lines of the universe always converge beneath her Calvin Klein boots, found on sale at Macy’s forgotten on the bargain rack at 75% off. The sun always shines on her shoulders. She has a flash, rent-controlled apartment (hard to find in the City after Nixon was elected). She’s the rising star at her job at a posh ad agency. And to her friends’ amazement, uncannily adept at scratch-off lottery tickets. Life’s a lucky breeze for Ashley.

Jake Hardin (Pine), on the other hand, just catches bus fumes. Always behind in rent. First to have a pigeon sh*t on him on a cloudless day, only soon to commence pissing down rain, soaking his tearing, Salvo clothes. His dream job managing an up-and-coming rock band always taking a backseat to plunging toilets as his “backup” job at the local bowling alley. Yep, Jake is bad luck personified, rusty horseshoes continuously clunking down on his head. You know what they say, it could get worse. Jake’s just waiting for the worse to let up and let the worst to drop in on his miserable life.

Still, Jake maintains hope. He has the utmost assuredness that his band, McFly, can really go places. All he and they need is some representation with muscle.

Enter music mogul Damon Phillips (Love), the most powerful producer in the City.

Wait. Enter Ashley first.

Much to her boss’, esteemed ad exec Peggy Braden’s (Pyle) delight, Ashley spun some of her infallible, lucky wheeler-dealing and snagged Phillips as a premier client. How? Why not a big masquerade ball? A bash of who’s who before anyone know who’s who? Perfect! Phillips loves it, and Ashley is vaulted from her cubicle to a private office with a company credit card! Let fortune shine!

Such a big party does not go unnoticed, so now enter Jake. If Phillips is there, Jake might be able to score McFly a deal by sneaking the big guy a demo and set them all on the track to the big time. Just so long Jake’s bad luck doesn’t intervene. And he has a quick dalliance with New York’s luckiest woman. And saves Phillips from an accident. And…and…and…

And is that a limo to drive Jake back to his new, luxury apartment?

Meanwhile, Ashley breaks the heel of her pump. And nearly chokes. And gets sh*tcanned.

It only gets better from there…


So Lohan scored well as a comedic actress. She had a good thing going. Fluffy sure, but a good thing nonetheless.

But the world of comedy has a fickle audience. What got belly laughs in the Andrew “Dice” Clay 80s gave way to sardonic observations in the Jerry Seinfeld 90s lead to the obnoxious, goofiness in the Dane Cook 00s. Comedy is always in flux, and the audience is always changing. Opinions if not core interests. What flew then may flop now.

I’m not saying that Luck was unfunny outright, nor was Lohan missing her comic spark. Also, there are some comedy devices that either are key signatures of the genre and/or are universal themes that transcend pop cultural tastes as did this movie had. The issue I took with Luck is with all its classic, screwball romcom themes, everything came across as muted. I ain’t talking low key here. I’m talking wrestling with the snooze alarm and losing muted.

Pace drags. Moving on.

Luck played like a watered down Mark S Waters project. Hell, it could’ve been one his films, what with Lohan on board and the bittersweet atmosphere of the movie, but there are unshakable trappings at work here. Maybe be even sinister.

Okay, a bit dramatic. Still, there’s this subtle cruelty in Luck‘s story dynamics. That muted feeling I mentioned didn’t just apply to the execution of classic romcom standards, but also an undercurrent of meanness for two-thirds of the film. It was like we as an audience to were expected wait on baited breath for the next sh*tball for Ashley to field, and therein laid the fun. Not to mention how Jake’s meteoric rise to fame and fortune was more like privilege than hard-earned (yo, Hollywood: ‘Muricans love the underdog overcoming their adversities, not just getting a handout. This kinda undoes some tension, always vital to creating a good story). Neither side of the dynamic was hopeful nor satisfying for a movie make.

I’ll quit lecturing. But you gotta agree, negativity is a helluva way to turn off your average romcom audience. Happened here. It had it on good authority (read: the IMDb) a lot of folks found Luck not only unfunny and lacking spark but also possessing a sour taste in the mouth. Paraphrasing here. Terms like “canned” and “forced” also dappled amateur reviews. I had to agree, but I’d like to believe that my loose cannon lens wasn’t so myopic.

I’d like to believe that. But let’s try anyway.

Like I mentioned earlier, the film was lame but not wanting for quality material. Huh? What’s that? A muted, somewhat mean-spirited love story had a stripe of quality running through it? Well kinda. On a second thought, Luck wasn’t exactly muted. It was cluttered with devices trying to be disguised with traditional romcom elements. The flick was a throwback to late-50s/early-60s romantic comedies/dramas. Think Breakfast At Tiffany’s or The Apartment. Bittersweet. Luck came across as just bitter. Sure, it had the mismatched would-be lovers, the struggles of living in The Big City (almost always NYC), stereotypical but not quite cutout characters who eventually “find/save” one another, a heartwarming resolution. The whole wad (no cats to rescue, still it might’ve helped here).

What went wrong here is that almost everything in Luck screamed “called it in.” Stock everything that almost hit the mark. It’s shame for a fluffy romcom to feel fluffy; a pair of shears would’ve been useful. The flick had a sorta pseudo-Disney feel underneath the underneath. Chalk it up to LiLo’s salad days, and perhaps director Petrie was attempting to cash in on his starlet’s rep with her first foray into more “grown-up” movies. Big shocker: didn’t work. Predictable, but—not unlike the plot—what did you expect?

Enough sh*t. What’s at the heart, so to speak, of a romantic comedy? Right, our heroes. This flick had a likable cast. What went wrong? On one side Luck had Chris Pine in all his awkward, pre-Kirk glory. On the other we had LiLo with all her sexy, smoky-voiced, pre-unadulterated street drug glory. Well, despite the setback of Lohan OD’ing on coke for the first time during Luck‘s shoot (there’s sumpin’ fer the résumé) both our leads did a serviceable job. I felt one of the nicest aspects of Luck  was watching Pine in his salt mine years. He was earning some footing here, and it was good to watch where his toddling steps of movie stardom began. It was kind of akin to seeing Brad Pitt in Thelma And Louise, saying, “Hey, this guy’s got something here.” I enjoy Pine; he’s fun. And could his Jake be any sweeter? Hell, his way with band management, needful little kids and eventually bagging a babe, I think he was a safe bet to run a Federation starship.

However…

Here we had an example in seeing one star rise as one begins to fall, and the twain really meet. In Luck, ostensibly a Lohan vehicle designed to be her breakaway “adult” role, we had our star going through the motions. She seemed bored with her role, indifferent and only showed shades of her waning comic talent and manna. Sure, serviceable was the key word here overall with Luck, but like with a recovering addict (let’s forgo irony here), LiLo’s Ashley is only as interesting as when she’s leaning up against her co-stars for support. Simply put, Ashley is only Our Girl Friday The 13th when balanced against her onscreen friends. Not by. Against. In the scenes—especially the second and third acts—where Ashley is more or less forced to face life without her luck but still has her best buds, Lohan shined some like an uncut diamond. It was too bad that this was in fits and starts. For Luck, half of the time it was Lohan’s show, but keep in mind she had to share the spotlight with the rest of the cast for a full 90 minutes, and not in every scene. In short, Lohan was wobbly, only showing glimpses of her spark from her films past. Including Waters’ work. Too bad, and some love lost here. Some.

Such a drag. We all need a fluffy romcom once in a while. Luck ain’t one of them. The thing has too much inconsistent acting, too many dumb sightgags and too much abrading, mean spirited ridiculousness. Breakfast At Tiff’s this wasn’t.

Okay, that was a far cry. Luck was barely brunch.


The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? Relent it. You want worthwhile, friendly fluff? Go shear a sheep. Good luck with that, BTW.


Stray Observations…

  • I caught that rainbow a might bit after the helicopter takeoff. Twenty minutes in and any possible subtly is gone.
  • “I like the tiny marshmallows.” Kinda sweet there, and neither in a syrupy nor South Park way.
  • My girl is all over astrology, but wary of tarot. You know what I’m shaky with? Superstition dictating fate. Check out my Netflix queue if you don’t believe me.
  • Hey! Tift Merritt! Big fan here.
  • “They all look alike to me.”
  • Kill me, but I dug McFly’s Britpop style.
  • “I’m afraid to say yes.”

Next Installment,,,

Nic Cage is royally pissed off with those thieves that ignored the NO TRESPASSING signs circling his property. Should’ve got a bulletproof dog.


RIORI Vol. 2, Installment 15: Paul Schrader’s “The Canyons” (2013)


Canyons


The Players…

Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brookes, Tenille Houston and Gus Van Sant.


The Story…

Trust fund doosh Christian figures himself a burgeoning movie producer. That counts if you consider soft-core porn YouTube and FaceBook feeds makes you a movie mogul. But behind his scenes Christian’s fragile failing actress girlfriend, Tara, hides an affair. Her tryst might be an opportunity to get out from Christian’s sleaze, but a chance meeting thrusts them all into a violent, sexually charged tour through the darker side of basal human nature. It’s not as cool as it all sounds, believe you me.


The Rant…

I have a confession to make.

I’m willing to wager that a lot of other guys might have a similar confession. Years ago, at least by a decade, and before she was druggy, snatchy and scraping a rusting career down to the metal, I had a crush on Lindsay Lohan. Back before the crash-and-burn that became her career’s swamp, she was hot, funny and charismatic. She was the It-Girl at the turn of the century. She also had natural comedic talent in the best way imaginable, organic and malleable. We all know about Mean Girls and the remake of Freaky Friday; pairing her against Jaime Lee Curtis was a stitch. And like Curtis, Lohan cut her teeth as a Screen Teen, growing up in front of the lens and whose every action was scrutinized with baited breath. By the way, she was hot.

Now I know the need to stretch yourself as an actor, to try challenging roles, test rougher waters. Lohan was a teen actress and former Disney darling (she starred in three Disney remakes, before God). If there is any evidence in Miley Cyrus’ post Hannah Montana career, then Lohan is one of a neverending string of Screen Teens that want so desperately shed their kiddie label, they’d take perhaps a premature plunge into the world of post-PG13. A tricky turn to take, and it often results in failure. For example, despite his promising start, Edward Furlong comes immediately to mind regarding career flameout. Shia LeBeouf ain’t doing so well either. To my immediate memory the only former Screen Teen that bucked the trend was Jodie Foster, playing nymphet Iris in Taxi Driver at age 12. Two Oscar wins later and well you get it.

Waitaminnit, didn’t she star in the original Freaky Friday? Hmmm.

The trouble with taking said plunge is that often the audience doesn’t want to go along for a swim. Would a Mean Girls 2 clean up at the box office? Maybe. Maybe even a Freakier Friday. But as she grew up, Lohan wanted to try her hand at more “serious” movies. Like I said, you gotta stretch yourself. The problem is you also have to be convincing, and take leap of faith that the audience will follow you young actor you along a different route, as if age is notwithstanding. It worked for comical Jim Carrey (once in a while), and on the other hand, brooding Robert de Niro (again, once in a while). For some odd reason, which I can only attribute to bad press surrounding even worse off-screen behavior on Lindsay’s part, her grown up roles were not very successful and followed the damning rules of diminishing returns like clockwork. How do you go from being a part of an ensemble cast in a Robert Altman film (A Prairie Home Companion) to a wretched attempt at American giallo (I Know Who Killed Me)? My take? Too many unadulterated street drugs and impatience.

Lohan should’ve fired her agent years before the crackpipe burned low. You can’t shoehorn yourself as a former child star into flawed “serious” roles and expect to taken seriously without a cocked brow. Looks like no one told LiLo this, and her later films—like The Canyons—illustrate her grinding against her once effortlessly charming side with her needs to be taken seriously. You can’t be taken seriously as an actor if you just dump yourself out of your element for the sake of that. Well, that and taking on lousy scripts ain’t much of a sound investment either.

Anywho…


Hollywood is a plastic town. No one disputes that. It’s very being rests on creating fantasy worlds populated by liars portraying imaginary lives for an unseen admiring public. It’s all glitz and glamour, drugs and squalor, fake reality and conspicuous consumption. Money has a lot to with Hollywood’s being also.

Apart from all those underpinnings, Tinsel Town rides along on making movies. That’s where the cash is. It’s a town that rides on spectacle, the literal sense of the word: to be watched. Everyone’s an actor, everybody’s on a stage, everyone’s performing some song and dance. Makes for an endless melodrama with all the twists and turns of reality to take in. And get warped.

Take Christian (Deen) for example. He’s got the latest thing. Tapping into the endless promise of social media, he can crank out “movies” for the gullible public on his smartphone, readily available and always rife with the possibility of going viral. He can be the next Scorsese with enough likes. Besides, he’s gotta have a spine unto which his trust fund bucks have to hang. He also needs a gimmick, a solid one beyond pixels.

He and Tara (Lohan) haven’t been with each other long, but long enough to reach a tenuous agreement. He provides the luxury, she provides the money shots. All that’s missing is the white lines and a domain name. One night after drinks and dinner with Christian’s latest prospects Ryan (Funk) and Gina (not Wagnall’s), the usual nighttime T&A session goes a little left of center.

Turns out Tara has a bit of history with Ryan, a glimmer of a possibly better life that would have garnered security and perhaps the all elusive love rather than sucking miles of c*ck in the name of a really nifty address, both online and on the block. But Christian is the jealous, possessive type. He’ll share Tara’s bush with total strangers so long as it ends in profit, as long it won’t result in an actual healthy shine at a relationship, hand to God.

Their’s is all spectacle. This is the plastic town of Hollywood. Relationships don’t actually exist beyond the coupled hands at the premier, and even wasted Tara knows this. So what’s this proto-fluffer gonna do to get back towards the straight and narrow with a guy like Ryan? After all, Christian’s not exactly the most even-keeled yacht in the bay, especially since he’s easily tempted by any female other than Tara.

Sigh. Just another chapter in the novel that is Hollywierd. Next!…


Whoa nelly. I bet most of you smelled The Canyons light-years before you ever heard about it. The flick fell so hard under The Standard on all fronts you’re probably wondering what took me so long to get to it. Patience, friends. Patience. Here’s a super low budget movie that still managed to be a loss leader at the box office, even after skimping out on craft services (I think. I mean, everyone in the movie seemed way too skinny to me). I heard that Schrader more or less made this movie on a bet regarding the budget.After seeing the thing I’m not sure if Schrader won or lost. The Canyons is looow budget all right, right down to the DV camera work (maybe a parallel with the making movies on phones?). The working budget was around $250,000 and the movie grossed only $59,000 and some change. That’s including DVD sales. Ouch.

I think this movie died based mostly on negative press; it kept people away. After watching it once (only once this time!), I’m not entirely sure what the flap was about with The Canyons. It does have a lame plot, sure, and the acting is wooden, but was it all on purpose? It’s hard to tell, but I’m willing to wager that The Canyons is a very self-aware movie. Everything is superficial, but was it deliberate? The movie semi-revolves around acting and making movies, after all, and what else is based so much on style first, substance second than making movies? The flash of a movie is what gets your attention in the first place. This movie is not engaging, but itseemingly doesn’t try to be. It’s all plastic, as well as somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

I credit this to the script. Bret Easton Ellis was…is known for being an 80s writer in every sense of the term: slick, winking and tapping into the cultural zeitgeist without shame. That and a lot of lines of blow being snorted. Since this movie indeed seems so plastic, what better way to illustrate the transparency of movie making than an expert chronicler of the superficial and fleeting? The Canyons is all about putting on faces, on denying accountability and how cheap and hollow relationships can be. It’s an 80s movie for the 10s. It’s got a feeling similar to Refn’s Drive (a review of that is kicking around here at RIORI somewhere), another film about gloss, movies and hostility. The Canyons is a rather ugly film and transparent film, and doesn’t try to hide it.

Despite all that ugliness, there were a few high points. There always as to be a few, right? Right? Whew. Thought I was losing it there for a minute. Fo’ instance, I really liked the opening montage of all the burnt out movie theaters. It really sets the stage, as all good montages do. Up front you’re getting a totally not subtle message as what the next 100 minutes are gonna be about: the stripped out side of movies and acting. It leaves a dry feeling in your mouth, and feels welcome there. We also have some pretty good cinematography going on. Very deliberate camera angles; again no subtlety. The Canyons intends to whack upon your sensibilities and offer no quarter. Again, here’s the ugliness up front and personal, used exceptionally well in the sex scenes (did I mention LiLo gets naked a lot in this movie? You’re welcome). So we got that working for us, which is nice.

However…

Let’s talk about the acting. This was the bugaboo that the intelligentsia really took issue with. Either James Deen is a really bad actor, or his performance is keenly calculating in line with Ellis’ writing. He’s just so smarmy he’s fun to hate, as well as hate his acting. He’s so full of himself and at the same time so weak. If the goal was indeed to make his character Christian so hateful to be a reflection of all too prevalent stereotypes in Tinsel Town, Schrader succeeded. If not? It’s still all deliciously fake.

Speaking of fake, Lohan here seems so out of place. Tara seems so bewildered as to her circumstances, so in denial of the fact that she’s just a tool and piece of ass, and not really caring. She comes across as totally out of breath and almost checked out emotionally. Even when she tries to muster up some muscle, it’s all so dire. Again, deliberate? Following along in the vein of the movie? Maybe.

Everyone is f*cking everyone else, figuratively and literally in this movie. It’s just so brutal, and you wish you could sympathize with someone on screen, but you can’t. It’s because they’re all cardboard caricatures of cardboard caricatures. Ciphers, empty and lacking any place for emotional investment. Once again…oh, well you get it by now. No nuances, no delicacy, just a rolling pin over your sense of civil behavior. All of it deliberate and without taste.

Everything in The Canyons is “on purpose.” Repeat this mantra: deliberately devoid of subtlety. I really don’t know about this one. Everything is so superficial, and maybe that’s the point. That seems to be the message trying to get across here. In other words, all’s fair in love, war and video apps.


The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? A solid question mark. Really. The film is so on the nose fake that it’s sphinx-like in its intentions. I guess you gotta rent it to make up your own mind. I can’t really recommend it though.


Stray Observations…

  • I liked the “no kissing” thing. Elegantly sleazy.
  • “Nobody has a private life anymore…” “Okay. What do you talk to your shrink about?”
  • It’s curious how the characters in the film keep reminding us of “how beautiful” Tara is when in reality LiLo’s cosmetic surgery did her no favors.
  • “How was your day; you go to the gym?”
  • The use of Deen’s Bluetooth: very clever narration.
  • “Nod for me.”

Next Installment…

Aubrey Plaza has a short summer to check off all her “conquests” for her To-Do List.