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Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature biopic about edgy photographer Diane Arbus isn't for kids. It includes explicit nudity (body parts and full frontal at a nudist community), and some sexual activity. The subjects of Arbus' photos include unusual fringe characters like sex workers, dwarfs, giants, twins, and nudists. Characters discuss adultery, depression, sexual desire, and suicide (one character kills himself); children worry about their mother's absences from home. Characters smoke cigarettes and do plenty of social drinking. Language includes at least five uses of "f--k."
What's the story?
Diane (Nicole Kidman) is her photographer husband's careful, quiet assistant, but she wants to do more with the camera than change lenses and load film. When she meets a fictional neighbor named Lionel ( Robert Downey, Jr.), he dares her to imagine another sort of life, one more sensual, more original, and less bound by convention. Intrigued when Lionel invites her to meet his friends -- a cellist without arms, a prostitute, a giant, and other folks who work as circus "freaks" -- Diane stops attending to her usual '50s housewife routines and starts listening to jazz, leaving her hair uncombed, and working with her Rolleiflex (the boxy camera she used during her career). Fur suggests that Diane's changed attitude affects her family, alarming her two children and disappointing her imperious mother. But the main focus is on Diane's imaginary romance with Lionel, which represents the next step she takes -- to become a professional photographer on her own.
Is it any good?
Unusual and sometimes disturbing, FUR: AN IMAGINARY PORTRAIT OF DIANE ARBUS doesn't so much show the photographer's life as imagine how she experienced it. Inspired by Patricia Bosworth's Diane Arbus: A Biography, this is a risky project, interpreting instead of reporting biographical events, and it will trouble some viewers for taking such artistic and emotional license.
A passionate, earnest film braced by Kidman's taut performance, Fur keeps its distance from its subject. The central questions of her work -- What is her relationship with her subjects? Are her famous portraits of "freaks" exploitative or self-exploratory, images of deep relationships between subject and artist, or ways to distance them from their viewers? -- remain unanswered.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Diane's increasing distance from her family as she discovers her art. How does the movie suggest that her conventional existence -- as wife, mother, and assistant in her husband's business -- stifles her creativity? How does Diane learn about herself by meeting people outside her usual frame of reference? What purpose does introducing a fictional character (Lionel) into a biography serve? Why is it important to be able to express yourself creatively? What are your creative outlets?
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