So, in finishing up Gregory Hinton's published works, we close with Santa Monica Canyon, which is another California story, this time set in and around Los Angeles. Focused on Mark, a younger man dating a big time film actor, and John, an artist living in the eponymous canyon, we watch as their lives entwine and connections that shouldn't exist between them become apparent.
We open on Mark, who teaches poetry at a city college, swimming in the Pacific, getting noticed coming out of the sea by John, who needs models for his paintings and sketches. John has taken to hiring in models from various agencies, but this hasn't worked out well, since the first one we meet is on drugs and wants to be an escort more than a sitter. We see Mark returning to the stylish DeMille estate home he shares with long time lover Edward, who's hosting the Lame Ducks, the inner circle and the only people who particularly know about the relationship between Mark and Edward. Mark is uncomfortable with the trappings of fame and the severe closet Edward is forced to reside in. Edward is also over 10 years older than Mark, and uses "Boy" as a pet name. Besides the obvious stresses there, a video of Edward getting serviced by an anonymous john has been making the rounds, leading to the favorite game of rumor quashing.
Eventually, John does approach Mark on the beach, and convince him to be a sitter for his art. What eventually causes Mark to relent is finding sketches of Edward among John's drawings that he knows nothing of. Edward gets an offer from an up and coming actress to star in a project she's working on, and ends up leaving Mark for the summer to film, citing Mark's need to heal from the recent death of his father as a reason for Mark not to tag along. Mark hits a local lit store and gets more information on John from a gossipy frenemy of John's, who discusses how John's lost talent since his break up with Danny, a caterer who also served as a model for John.
As John and Mark grow closer, Mark's distance from Edward leads to fighting between them. Edward eventually calls and tells Mark he sent him a letter that he wants Mark to burn without reading. Which spirals into Mark finding the full series of sketches John did of Edward that reveal the truth about a lot of things between all sets of lovers.
In the end, we are left to decide for ourselves what we think of everything, as we see everyone without masks or pretenses, and like viewers of the portraits, it's up to us to see what the artits wants us to see and make up or own minds about the truth in the picture.
Like the last one, this one also name drops quite a bit, as we in flashback meet Christopher Isherwood and his partner and their circle of friends.
It's also kind of a heavy trip, and I find myself understanding but hating the choices made in the end.