Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

"OK"

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus Review


Diane Arbus made a name for herself by trying to make the normal look peculiar and vice versa. Many of her pictures detail "freaks" in very calm, classical poses and spaces. When Steven Shainberg got the notion to cook up a fictional story about how Arbus got her inspiration for her photographic portraits, this had to be on his mind. Somehow, this notion creates an inventive misfire.

Shainberg imagines Arbus, played by Nicole Kidman, as a faithful housewife, very self-conscious of her strange stares and off-putting manner. She's also a devoted assistant to Allan (a superb Ty Burr), her photographer husband who captures the poppy pastel colors of 1950s dresses and various appliances for catalogs. Her life gets a shock of electricity when she catches the eye of a strange neighbor named Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.). Lionel was featured in a freak show when he was younger as a dog boy, scientifically diagnosed as hypertrichosis. The relationship that builds between Arbus and her hairy friend accounts for her artistic awakening and liberation of feminine constraints.

The metaphors are heavy: right after seeing Lionel for the first time, hair clogs up Diane's (it's pronounced Dee-Ann) plumbing along with a small key that opens his door. Shainberg's compositions are full of color and genuinely look pretty, but there's a severe lack of freakishness here. Most of the set design and the camerawork seems pulled from some tropical-flavored Tim Burton piece with hints of Lynchian noir. It's in every restaurant, bar, and funeral home (don't ask) Lionel and Diane visit. The film looks quirky enough, but in the realm of a truly strange person, it seems shockingly proper. Not surprisingly, the truly bizarre images are those of the serene place-settings that Diane's husband shoots.

Shainberg's first film, Secretary, seems a comfier fit for Arbus. The erotic, perverse emotions that Arbus (self-admittedly) felt from taking the pictures of these people and from the people themselves (Lionel) seem to be muffled and given out only in small dabbles. Kidman's blue opals often hint at the vast dunes of wayward thoughts underneath Arbus' plain exterior, but it doesn't add up. Kidman plays Arbus with her entire wanting, but she is severely miscast as the dark, bleak creature. Downey is exceedingly apt for Lionel, speaking in his patented art-teacher-on-meth spurts and letting his eyes dart under the mounds of fur that cover his face for three-quarters of the film.

In its reach for wanton grandeur, Fur doesn't necessarily bore but rather confounds in its attempt to present a perverse life without really getting too strange. Arbus called art "a secret about a secret," and it's possible that Shainberg is purposefully holding us at arm's length to intrigue us. Fascination is a hard beast to wrangle and, at moments, Fur has it but it never enraptures the viewer into this willful world that Arbus existed in. It makes her peculiar world look extremely normal.

Action!



Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

Facts and Figures

Run time: 122 mins

In Theaters: Friday 20th October 2006

Box Office USA: $0.1M

Box Office Worldwide: $2.3M

Budget: $16.8M

Distributed by: Picturehouse

Production compaines: Iron Film, Edward R. Pressman Film, River Road Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 32%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 75

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , William Pohlad, , Patricia Bosworth,

Starring: as Diane Arbus, Robert Downey Jr. as Lionel Sweeney, as Allan Arbus, as David Nemerov, as Gertrude Nemerov, Emmy Clarke as Grace Arbus, Genevieve McCarthy as Sophie Arbus, as Jack Henry, Marceline Hugot as Tippa Henry, Mary Duffy as Althea, as Allan's New Assistant, Gwendolyn Bucci as Dominatrix, Christina Rouner as Lois, as Handsome Client, Lynn-Marie Stetson as Fiona

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.