"Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane
Directed by Steven Shainberg.
Written by Erin Cressida Wilson. Based partially on the
biography of Diane Arbus by Patricia Bosworth.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., and Ty Burrell.
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 11/2/06
After seeing the total whack job
"Secretary", I had
to see director Steven Shainberg's next movie, which looked like a
total whack job and has a whack job title--"Fur: An Imaginary
Portrait of Diane Arbus." And, with a freebie downtown where
the director himself would be in attendance, I HAD to check this
So, apparently, Diane Arbus (played here by
Nicole Kidman) was a big-time photographer; in this fictional tale
about Arbus and what might be going on in that head of hers, we meet
Arbus in 1958, as her husband, Allan (Ty Burrell), is busy being
successful as a nationally-recognized photographer. As Allan's
faithful assistant in studio and loving wife & mother of two
daughters outside of the studio, one would think that Diane
(pronounced Dee-onne, for reasons that aren't made clear here) has a
pretty sweet setup...but, she's not happy. Maybe it's the fact
that her husband doesn't seem to enjoy sex with his wife; maybe it's
that she has no individual aspiration; maybe it's that she has an
eye for a great picture but--despite a sassy camera given to her by
her husband ten years prior--doesn't like to take pictures herself.
Or, maybe it's the distraction of living in
the same building as a wolfman named Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.).
It's definitely one of those things, for sure.
The relationship that Diane forges with this
wolfman is the main story arc in "Fur", and it is not only
intriguing but surprisingly romantic given that the guy is covered
in a fucking rug's worth of hair. Shainberg, who was an ardent
follower of Arbus's work but has pretty much created this portrait
of her from scratch, does great work with a story that could have
very easily derailed into a bad pseudo-comedy. I'm still not
sure how Shainberg kept the balance correctly--it's got to be a mix
of strong lead performances from Kidman and Downey Jr. but it's also
that the film is so dreamy and curious. I mean, eventually,
"Fur" turns into a circus freak dreamscape romance flick, and
somehow, it's very watchable from start to cool finish.
Kidman is her normal reliable self here but
I think the film gets its best work out of Downey, Jr.; as the
director himself put it after the movie, it's his eyes that make his
wolfman character fly. He also got Downey, Jr. to play it
toned down; as opposed to his insane character from last year's
Kiss Bang Bang", here, Downey is playing a very quiet--at times,
so quiet you don't always catch his lines--freak of nature, someone
who is thoughtful, a bit bold, but willing to sit back and listen
and play it from the shadows. It works to good effect here,
not because he's playing against a loudmouth second fiddle but
because the character is a nuanced creation who is so
out-of-the-ordinary that you feel hooked to watching his every move.
Movies that feature romances at the expense
of what seem like good, honest, faithful men are always tough for
me, and while this didn't bring the film down on its own, I thought
that the story's neglect of Arbus's family life from the halfway
point on were detrimental to telling a tale of a woman so obsessed
with her neighbor, from a dramatic story angle perspective.
That was the only major flaw to me in what was otherwise a great
flick; when this comes out in a couple of weeks, be sure to check it
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard