When Sid (Radha Mitchell) walks up to the apartment above her New York flat to fix a leak, she meets Lucy (Ally Sheedy), a burned-out shell of a woman who was once the best photographer in New York. Sid is also the underling editor at a fancy-schmancy photography magazine, and naively tries to get Lucy to come out of retirement. Lucy is a mess, strung out on drugs and embroiled in another relationship with a pathetic, aging German actress—but, strangely enough, Sid and Lucy fall in love.
Not a movie for everybody for obvious reasons, "High Art" is actually one of the more honest movies to come down the pike in seasons. Ally Sheedy is wonderful, every facial tick and vocal inflection imbuing her speech with the tentativeness and fury that is the hallmark of her character. Her tragedy, brought on by a combination of talent and powerlessness, is subtly powerful. Radha Mitchell is also terrific as the shy, unsure magazine editor; when you watch her act, thirty people you have known from your past flit by your memory. When they get together, it seems way more natural, lovely and sweet than most any hetero relationship depicted in flicks over the last year.
It's not always a perfect puzzle; scenes end too quickly, and characters disappear in ways that suggest a lack of forethought. The ending, too, will be too oblique for most minds leaving the theater. But stick with it, and "High Art" will give you a couple of strange daydreams long after the movie has ended.
Return to Ian's movie reviews.