Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

Bomb Rating: 

If the film festival crowd is any reliable indication, "Fur" is one of those films lauded by people who are trying to justify the thousands of dollars they essentially spent to see the thing by claiming it's some kind of artistic achievement. This is mistaking a film about art as art itself, which is a common (and annoying) misperception. Films about art can be shit just as easily as films about shit can be art. A friend of mine saw "Fur" and commented that all it showed was that Nicole Kidman was no longer willing to do full frontal nudity. That about sums it all up.

"Fur" is what might be called an imagined biography of photographer Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman) by director Steven ("Secretary") Shainberg, who apparently shared company with Arbus when he was younger and who is quite obviously too close to his subject to make any compelling points about her life.

His method is to use Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.) as a metaphor or a symbol or whatever. Lionel has some kind of disease that keeps the hair on his body growing at an alarming rate, giving him the appearance of a dog, with hair growing all over his face and body. Diane lives a relatively benign existence as her husband's photography assistant. Her husband, Allan (Ty Burrell) is boring and she's pretty boring and then she meets Lionel and suddenly she wants to take pictures because Lionel has lots of strange friends, like midgets and Siamese twins.

The point of the film was about as obvious as the hair on Lionel's face. Lionel helps Diane shed the fa├žade that allows her to become the photographer she's going to become. As if this weren't obvious enough, Shainberg drives the point home by having Diane shave Lionel toward the end of the movie in what amounts to its catharsis. I mean, really, can an art film be more obvious than that?

Shed your brain and you might enjoy "Fur."

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