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
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes