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High Art

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: High Art

Starring: Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Rated: R
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: June 1998
Genres: Drama, Gay/Lesbian, Romance

*Also starring: Patricia Clarkson, Tammy Grimes, William Sage, David Thornton

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

HIGH ART isn't.

A pseudo-intellectual film about the pseudo-intellectual world of art magazines, HIGH ART is as wasted as its drug-addled protagonists.

In the only notable part of the movie, Ally Sheedy and Radha Mitchell deliver nice performances in the two leading roles, not that Lisa Cholodenko's script or direction makes you care much about either character. Living in a world of heroin induced highs, they float along until they fall in love with each other.

This uninviting picture, full of pretentious minor characters, has a receptionist that reads Dostoevski and a woman in the restroom line who is a certified genius, having recently been awarded a prestigious McArthur grant. 24-year-old Syd (Radha Mitchell), who has a rather bland, live-in boyfriend, was just promoted to assistant editor at the artistic photography magazine "Frame." Although the receptionist is impressed, Syd is mainly a gofer for her boss until she meets famous photographer Lucy Berliner (Ally Sheedy). For her to do photos for "Frame," Lucy demands that Syd be promoted to editor and assigned to her since Lucy fancies her.

Lucy lives with her current lover, a washed up German actress named Greta, played with a frequently indecipherable series of mumbles by Patricia Clarkson. The two of them and their friends wile away their time snorting and shooting up dope, usually heroin. This does not happen in a single episode, but becomes more commonplace than sleeping in the picture. Syd, who lives in the apartment below them, joins in on the fun and becomes a member of the zombie club.

Lucy seems pretty happy with her life of drugs, which apparently is funded by her mother. Lucy quit working professionally 10 years ago since she thought she was being "pigeonholed," and, since her mother has money, we can only assume that that's how Lucy supports her habit and procures her living expenses.

A typical scene has the editors arguing about whether a potential photographer's work is transcendental or merely classical. That no one has a clue as to the dogma they are spouting becomes obvious but not particularly funny. "Your work has a cultural currency that is important now," is the artist-speak that the Frame's manager uses to convince Lucy to show her pictures in the magazine.

When the big scene comes in which Lucy puts the moves on Syd, her idea of a romantic line is, "I want to get high with you." In Lucy's world, sex and drugs come hand-in-hand. And the movie, except for the obligatory scene of someone almost overdosing, shows drug usage as being a hip and natural part of the art scene.

This vacuous picture throws in a standard downer ending in an attempt to manipulate our emotions. In another movie, it might have worked, but in this one the reaction is likely to be decidedly muted.

HIGH ART runs 1:36. It is rated R for explicit sex, pervasive drug use and language and is not appropriate for those younger than college age.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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