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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 24.14%
Average: 3.45%
Pretty Bad: 27.59%
Total Crap44.83%

4 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
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by William Goss

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show"
2 stars

Whether they like it or not, star Nicole Kidman and director Steven Shainberg have put the "folly" into "follicle" with their feeble fable, 'Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus.'

You read that right: “imaginary.” As in, “we do whatever we want because we can.” Shainberg and writer Erin Cressida Wilson embellish Arbus’ entry into the world of photography, supposing that the demure housewife (Kidman) found herself fascinated by the man upstairs, new neighbor Lionel Sweeney (Robert Downey Jr.). He has hypertrichosis, a genetic condition resulting in excessive body hair; she has uptight furriers for parents. The heavy-handed fur metaphors only continue from there, as does an overall air of condescension once it becomes clear that a) without Arbus’ name on it, much more slack could be cut, and b) a conventional Arbus biopic would make for a more interesting character study than this, a peculiar movie about peculiar people.

However, with a whiff of pretense, Shainberg runs with the imaginary tangent established by that opportune subtitle and a disclaimer or two. Such deliberate deviance places Lionel in the role of muse while giving him all of the value of a MacGuffin, in effect introducing a faux fetish to Arbus’ life simply for the sake of parading freaks before her family and friends, to the particular dismay of husband Allan (Ty Burrell, 2004's Dawn of the Dead). As initially interesting as Diane’s cryptic unspoken exchanges with Lionel are, his increasing exposure of her to the world of the weird transforms the perverse into something passionless, coy, even dull, to the point where suffering for art becomes par for the course in the audience.

As weird and empty as the whole experience is, the cast doesn’t try any less to keep a straight face. As Diane grows less conservative in her housewife role, Kidman grows increasingly aloof, not due to her detachment from her home life, but because of her detachment from a regular person. Arbus is less of an artist and more of an alien, in her own little world with Lionel. Burrell makes an honest effort, as does his character (upon meeting the new neighbor, Allan begins to grow a beard in response), but it’s really all about Downey Jr., who downplays his more energetic tendencies beneath his make-up with a curiously sage demeanor. Bill Pope’s cinematography tries to emulate traditional pictorial composition to sufficient effect, but it grows as removed as the characters and environments do by proxy.

Then comes that one make-or-break moment, the litmus test for viewers being a scene in which Diane shaves Lionel’s entire body, from head to heels. Surely, Shainberg intends for this to come off as some sort of noble gesture, but an abnormal brand of tenderness doesn’t make the characters any less phony. In his 'Secretary,' he managed to elicit a human dynamic that elevated the central relationship above its S&M trappings; here, his misplaced romanticism fails to resonate and instead seems dedicated to making sure that this shave is anything but close.

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originally posted: 11/30/06 22:49:48
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User Comments

3/18/16 Charles Tatum Bizarre & totally interesting 4 stars
7/31/13 fartvenugen How does Chewbacca take a dump? 2 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. bizarre is one way to put it... 3 stars
6/02/07 nazanin sharafkhah weird & nothing to say& pointless 1 stars
4/22/07 Haridam Ultimately rather pointless 2 stars
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  10-Nov-2006 (R)
  DVD: 08-May-2007



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