Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (R)

Drama 122 November 10, 2006
By J. Hoberman
Nicole Kidman acted around a prosthetic proboscis to win an Oscar for her impersonation of Virginia Woolf in The Hours; as celebrated photographer Diane Arbus, she's all eyes. Everybody that Arbus photographed became a freak -- that was the source of her particular genius. But Fur has little interest in making the normal seem freakish; unlike Arbus, the movie benignly does the opposite. Physically, the fair-skinned and willowy Kidman is an unlikely choice to play the dark, diminutive Arbus. But the actress is far from the only curiosity in director Steven Shainberg's cabinet -- a misguided tribute to the woman his film identifies among "the greatest artists of the 20th century." Hardly a straight biopic, Fur invents all manner of characters and situations to explicate the three-month period in 1958 when Arbus ceased to be her husband Allan's studio assistant and became a photographer in her own right. You won't learn much about Arbus here, aside from the correct pronunciation of her first name; you will get to see Kidman try (and fail) to find her inner freak.
Steven Shainberg Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin, Jane Alexander, Emmy Clarke, Genevieve McCarthy, Boris McGiver, Marceline Hugot, Emily Bergl Patricia Bosworth, Erin Cressida Wilson Laura Bickford, Patricia Bosworth, Andrew Fierberg, William Pohlad Picturehouse