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Rated NR

Biography, Drama
It’s almost impossible to count how many things went wrong in this Steven Shainberg-directed story about photographer Diane Arbus. Nicole Kidman, who’s rapidly becoming the worst actress who everyone thinks is a good actress, plays Arbus as an innocent naïf floating without will or character through a life of cocktail parties and makeup. Rescued from her housewifely duties by a Wild Hairy Man (Robert Downey Jr.), she learns that if people tell her what she wants, she’ll get to have sex with midgets. The whole beauty-and-the-beast thing is clever, but Arbus wasn’t simply led into an artistic life: She was an artist, and there’s no sense of that in this film. I applaud Shainberg for feeling free to depart from the facts of her life to try to get at the sense of it, and I hope more filmmakers feel free to make fictional biographies and invented histories. Sadly, he doesn’t get at the sense of her life; he merely gives Kidman a vehicle for looking wide-eyed and stupid. Basically, imagine her playing her Bewitched character while she shaves Downey’s entire body. Then extend that into two hours of gorgeous sets, incredibly lush and thoughtful photography, and a disappointing, simple-minded story. It’s not entirely awful, but it would have benefited from a script rewrite and Kidman deciding to quit acting to go into the business she’s always been suited for: department store mannequin.

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