Visual artist Laurie Simmons is a seasoned storyteller in her own right who makes a promising but flat attempt at a narrative film with “My Art.”
The understated indie comedy, which screened at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, stars the photographer as Ellie – a struggling New York artist starved for inspiration who retreats to her friend’s summer house in order to recoup.
Ellie has been overshadowed by younger, self-absorbed artists – cleverly established in an early scene in which Simmons’ real life daughter Lena Dunham makes an appearance as her former pupil.
Her time house sitting begins as an attempt to revive her approach to her work but quickly becomes a distraction as she is drawn into the goings on of the small town around her. She befriends a group of local artists who she collaborates with on recreations of classic cinematic productions, all the while attempting to develop her own unique voice and having difficulty doing so.
My Art appeals to a finite audience and features little relate to outside the fine art community. It revels in mundane details to an unappealing degree that only picks up steam towards the second act.
Simmons’ previous filmmaking venture was the noteworthy 2006 short The Music of Regret starring Meryl Streep. With My Art, she is unable fill the screen time of a feature in a consistently compelling way.
Yet what holds the film together, is a charming, grounded performance by Simmons, whose understated and sympathetic portrayal carries the largely predictable story along.
Though Simmons has had small parts in Dunham’s Tiny Furniture (2010) and Girls, My Art marks her first lead role. Impressively, she brings a warmth and vulnerability to a character that could have otherwise come off pretentious and riddled with midlife crisis cliches.