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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [February 10, 2018]






[]  The first thing that caught my eye about My Art is that it features Parker Posey, but it turns out she's barely in it. She has two scenes, totaling at most two minutes of screen time.

Posey is remarkable. When she made My Art she was around 47, plays a woman of 40, and looks 30. Then there's that wonderful Posey persona, which infuses all her characters. Too bad her role is so slight.

The star of My Art is Laurie Simmons, and in it, she plays an artist. That's important to know, because Simmons is an actual artist and not an actress. In her mid 60s, she has barely any acting credits. My Art is Simmons's vanity project. She wrote, directed, and stars in My Art.

An artist, playing an artist, in the art world. My Art has "art film" written all over it.

Simmons's character, Ellie, has labored as an artist for many decades, but has yet to achieve fame. She supplements her art income as an art teacher and house sitter, sitting for artists more famous than her.

We open with Ellie conversing with Meryl (Lena Dunham), a more successful, and much younger, artist. Meryl chatters about her exciting, hectic life. Lots going on. I got the sense that Ellie feels a failure. She has nothing very interesting to tell Meryl about her own life, other than that she will be house-sitting for yet another famous artist (Blair Brown).



After Meryl leaves, Ellie sits alone in an empty, outdoor setting. It felt very bleak. This is partially due to Tom Richmond's arresting cinematography. Some very nicely lit and strikingly composed shots in this film, further supported by the painstaking production design. My Art looks like an art film.

But the story is slow and meandering. I was bored twenty minutes in, a boredom that occasionally lessened but sometimes returned. The film is low on conflict and drama. It's a "slice of life" and Ellie's life isn't all that interesting. For most of the film she house-sits at a big, beautiful house in upstate New York, in a small town full of artists, writers, and actors. Things are very quiet. The setting is bucolic. The people are friendly.




Along the way, Ellie meets three men, two of whom are "actors" who are really landscapers. Some of the dialog actually centers on whether an actor who doesn't act can call himself an actor. These men help Ellie on her latest art project. Everyone grows a bit as a result. There's some sadness along the way, and some happy moments. The film ends without any significant life changes or epiphanies. It ends on more of a smile than a hurrah.

The smile is that Ellie's art project is well received. She doesn't attain any great fame, but perhaps a pat on the back. Ellie is in her 60s, and two of the men are no spring chicks. One man is a widower whose acting was derailed by the death of his wife. Another man is thrice divorced. All three of the men gain some satisfaction in having helped Ellie. If My Art has a theme, it's that it's never too late to achieve something in life, even if that something falls short of your youthful ambitions. My Art is a tale of Late Bloomers.


My Art also profiles the culture and lifestyles of the northeast, liberal elite, Jewish/WASP arts crowd. The sort whose life revolves around The New York Times and The New Yorker. Always talking about their marriages, divorces, therapists, careers, doubts, creative projects, and angst. Much angst. Set amid the splendor of New York's genteel fame and wealth (as opposed to Hollywood's crass fame and wealth), which some attain and others only hover about. The wine & cheese parties, the self-involved friends more famous than you, the banal chit-chat about gallery openings, book signings, and theater projects. It's all a bit Woody Allenish.

In some ways, My Art reminded me of The Anniversary Party (another Posey film), but without the drama or hysteria. That's because The Anniversary Party is set in Los Angeles, whose creative crowd is more vulgar and melodramatic than New York's artists, at least as portrayed in films.

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