Like mother like daughter … or is it like daughter like mother? Lena Dunham was no doubt inspired by her photographer mom Laurie Simmons, and Simmons herself takes a page out of Dunham’s book with the film “My Art,” which she wrote, directed and stars in. Simmons plays Ellie, a New York City working artist and teacher, who departs for a small town in upstate New York over the summer to push her own work to bigger and grander places.
While staging and starring in her impeccably art-directed tributes to classical Hollywood films, Ellie becomes inextricably entwined with the locals who populate this small town. Inexplicably, they all happen to be struggling actors too, so she puts them in her projects, despite a few awkward interpersonal and romantic moments.
Simmons herself is an appealing screen presence, aloof yet somehow magnetic, an older woman fully in command of and confident in her life, work and sexuality. She has a wonderful cast of supporting actors, including Parker Posey, Robert Clohessy and filmmaker Josh Safdie, who hints at his leading man chops.
“My Art” is stylized and surreal, but this intriguing premise is squandered by a story that gets lost along the way. Any momentum grinds to a halt when Simmons becomes more concerned with visualizing the blurred border between fantasy and reality, rather than building out a stable story structure.
“My Art” is an amusing riff on the way one’s creative work bleeds into one’s personal life, and Simmons expresses a singular voice and style, despite the missteps in storytelling.
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills