One of the best things about Tribeca (this film premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Festival recently) are the more character-driven independent films that get screened there. One example of this is “My Art,” written, directed and starring Laurie Simmons. Simmons of course falls into that underrated category of “Female Director” that thankfully Tribeca recognizes more and more each year.
The story of the film revolves around “Ellie,” a sixty-something single artist escaping New York City to a friend’s country home where she hopes the peaceful surroundings will inspire her. In her case, the visual recreation of classic films complete with costumes, sets and actors. Simmons, an artist herself, clearly drew from her own experiences in creating such a believable character.
Ellie, like most artists, is a bit of an eccentric loner. Living on the large country estate with her dog (it has a degenerative disease), she looks like a fish out of water. Simmons’s naturalistic performance helps provide the type of honest humor that just can’t be made up. The artist eventually meets Frank (Robert Clohessy), a widowed gardener and one-time aspiring actor, who becomes enamored with Ellie, with both professional and personal designs. He is followed into Ellie’s artistic world by a gardener (Joshua Safdie) and blind-date lawyer (John Rothman). Also, making an appearance to remind audiences that this is New York-made independent film territory, is the generously acerbic Parker Posey. Finally, making a cameo in “My art” is Simmons’s real life daughter, Lena Dunham.
Ellie eventually casts the locals in her moving image art. Together they recreated scenes from famous films including “Some Like It Hot,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Misfits” and lesser knowns, like “Mr. Peabody & The Mermaid.” If the original films didn’t impress you with their wit, the actors recreating them will.
A film that contains the nostalgic concept of film recreations as art is clearly of multivarious interests, to film lovers, especially. Maybe it was Simmons’s subliminal masterplan, in watching her film, to watch other films, too. Therefore, through the powers of osmosis, by liking them you’ll also like her film.
Normally a dialogue-driven script (more common of independents) runs the risk of growing tedious due to its lack of action sequences and special effects. However, “My Art” moves at a rapid pace, taking us from the city, to the country, inside various movie scenes and back to the city. The script eventually comes full circle with Ellie’s brief trip to the country allowing her to not only find her art, and in a sense herself, but new friends, and even a little romance.
In directing “My art” Simmons took on a heavy load, not only with directing the film, but also, with the complex recreations she set out to accomplish. But the film’s greatest asset is its charm. It doesn’t set out to do anything except tell a quaint story of likeable people on a journey of self-discovery. These are the films that Tribeca was built on.