Kidman, Downey Jr. wrap themselves in juicy roles

Fur

on November 10, 2006 by Ed Scheid
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Described as “An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus,” Fur combines fictional characters and events with the framework of Arbus' life to show her early development as a photographer of unconventional subjects. In 1958 Diane (Nicole Kidman, in another risk-taking role) assists her husband Allan (Ty Burrell) in a family photography studio. In their apartment Diane, Allan and their two daughters are preparing for a fashion show of the newest furs from the department store owned by Diane's parents (Harris Yulin and Jane Alexander, who is particularly effective as Diane's disapproving mother). But, when Diane is asked what she does in the “family” business, Kidman's face fills with deep sorrow that admits her lack of importance.

Meanwhile, Diane becomes mystified by a new tenant whom she briefly glimpses wearing a mask that covers most of his face. She visits his upstairs apartment carrying her unused camera and meets her new neighbor Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.), whose body is covered in fur. (Although based on a man living during the turn of the century, in this story the character of Lionel is fictional.) Diane's new friend introduces her to circus performers, transvestites and others far removed from her upper-class upbringing.

As his face is covered for most of the film, Downey expresses emotions through his eyes, giving Lionel sophistication and sensitivity. In one of her best performances, Kidman impressively depicts the intensely emotional journey of Diane's self-discovery. Restless and constricted, Diane becomes drawn to Lionel and his friends, developing a deep empathy with her future photographic subjects. No matter how strange Diane's experiences become, director Steven Shainberg ( Secretary ) grounds Fur in the deepening bond between Diane and Lionel. Ultimately, though, Fur is fascinating but incomplete. As the film concludes when Diane begins taking photographs, it lacks a sense of the reaction to Diane's work and her importance to modern photography. Distributor: Sony
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin and Jane Alexander Director: Steven Shainberg
Screenwriter: Erin Cressida Wilson
Producers: William Pohlad, Laura Bickford, Bonnie Timmermann and Andrew Fierberg
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for graphic nudity, some sexuality and language
Running time: 122 min.
Release date: November 3, 2006 ltd

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