Lindsay Lohan’s name has become shorthand for the tragic way Hollywood chews up youth and spits out dead-eyed husks intent on flashing genitalia and punching paparazzi. But also, there’s a negative side. Like any fan of movies, bad movies, and trainwrecks, I watched the unfolding making of coverage of her possible comeback The Canyons with rapt interest. I couldn’t decide — and this does mark me as the worst kind of person, so, you know fair warning if you decide you want to be/remain my friend — whether I wanted her to rise like a pill-addled phoenix from the ashes or if I wanted to see if her career could implode hard enough to make an actual black hole. It was an irresistible story: three former A-listers, Paul Schrader, a highly-acclaimed director whose career hit a brutal slump, Bret Easton Ellis, noted douchebag who was finding less of a market for that one story he keeps telling, and Lohan herself, the cheapest and best name they could get for the film that would revitalize all three of them. It’s a bit like resting the hope of the American Space Program on one of those Florida residents that’s trying to shoot the moon down with meth-powered bottle rockets.
The flashiest bit of casting — and it’s with brutal irony that Lindsay Lohan, at the Lindsayest Lohaniest point of her career couldn’t even be the biggest curiosity in her own movie — was porn star James Deen. Mrs. Supermarket and I decided to check the movie out. It’s terrible, in a very empty way like a lot of Ellis’s work, and not even salvaged by a director who can find the core of ridiculousness within. The funniest part was James Deen was not the worst actor in it. Neither was Lohan. No, the worst performance belongs to a bro-faced slab of beef by the name of Nolan Funk. So not only does he have a better porn name than Deen, Mrs. Supermarket was convinced he was the porn star until she checked the IMDB.
Fortunately, terrible actors who stay in shape will always have work, either on the Lifetime network or starring in movies about the special needs X-Man Gambit. Funk stars in this week’s Lifetime Theater, and while he’s marginally better here, that’s not really saying a whole lot. He plays a deranged lighthouse-dweller (already my favorite character description ever) who “rescues” a pop singer from a horrendous car accident, takes her to his remote home, where they stay partially due to inclement weather, and while nursing her back to health steadily grows more and more unhinged. In the last act, he graduates to full psycho killer. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It’s the basic plot of Stephen King’s Misery, a book that I rank as one of his best. Granted, PopFan is more Lifetimey, but the changes aren’t entirely what one would expect.
For one thing, the accident is less severe. Paul Sheldon breaks both his legs, while Ava Maclaine only suffers one of those bumps on the head in fiction that put you to sleep for a few hours but don’t suddenly make you forget math. Funk’s Xavier is also more proactive; while Annie Wilkes finds Sheldon in the kind of unlikely coincidence that only happens to set plots in motion, Xavier actively sabotages Ava’s car to insure the crash. His motives are also more romantic or venal, depending on how sympathetic you want to be about some creep who causes a terrible crash to to kidnap a woman. While Annie was a genuine (though psychotic) fan, Xavier really just wants to shack up with Ava. In the lighthouse. I only bring that last part up because he lives in a fucking lighthouse and that’s never not funny.
Meanwhile, Ava’s boyfriend Curtis and her manager Damon do their best to track her down. Since the movie opened with her slipping out of town for a little me-time, it’s difficult. Then New England gets hit with a Nor’easter and I find I have to digress. I love when regional slang gets adopted for a specific thing, especially when that slang happens to be ridiculous. I generally just assume that a Nor’easter is a storm so severe that pronouncing the “th” would take too long and result in some deaths. The Nor’easter in question is accomplished with some of the worst digital FX work outside of a Syfy original movie. They apparently could not get storm stock footage. So I’m left to assume that a sharknado is brewing, and I can understand why Xavier might not want to go out in that.
This is a Lifetime movie, and it needs to take some kind of stand. Predictably, these stands come from a place that would appeal to the tongue-clucking set, or who I like to imagine Lifetime thinks their core viewership is. At this point, I need to accept that I’m part of Lifetime’s core viewership, and let’s just say that my concerns are a wee bit different than theirs. Anyway, Xavier’s biggest lie, or at least the one that horrifies Ava and proves to her he’s not what he seems, is that he’s a former marine. He claims to have served in Afghanistan, but in his psycho room — a section in the lighthouse because if you have access to a lighthouse, and need a psycho room, you’d be stupid to put it literally anywhere else — he has forms revealing he was 4-F. Later, Damon correctly susses out Xavier’s lie when the kid says “hoo-hah” rather than “oo-rah.” Also, “hoo-hah” is my mother’s generic noun for anything she can’t think of. So it was even funnier here.
The second stand is somewhat harder to parse. In the opening, which is a party to celebrate Ava’s sexy new video, some throwaway dialogue establishes her origin story. And you know what? It’s pretty good writing for what it is. They don’t hit the viewer over the head with it, and if I weren’t taking notes, I might have missed it. Ava is implied to be a Miley Cyrus type, a former child star who is doing her best to shed that image with some over-the-top sexuality that plays like what a sheltered kid might think grown-ups do in the bedroom (my wife assures me that this is limited to making pillow forts). She starts sexy dancing with a guy and a girl, doing her best to piss off conservative boyfriend Curtis. While this happens, the whole party films her on their phones. It’s like one of those racist old stories about primitive tribesmen being afraid that pictures steal souls, only presented utterly without irony. Later, the scene is referenced again when creepy Xavier wants to film Ava doing stuff. It’s a pretty dark scene, and entertaining the way Lifetime dances around the actual words.
In the greatest missed opportunity of the film, Ava escapes to Xavier’s truck. She tries to get it started, and can’t, and suddenly he’s just there. He says the line, “It’s an old truck. You have to use the choke.” Mrs. Supermarket, who was out of the room getting a drink, comes charging back in and demands to know, “Please tell me he choked her!” So that’s what this movie turned us into. And here’s the thing, I was thinking the same thing and was disappointed when he didn’t. You can’t set that up and not deliver.
What did we learn? Well, for one, when impersonating a marine, it’s “oo-rah.” Also it’s apparently okay to pretty much rip off an entire Stephen King novel. He’s not very litigious, I guess.