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High Art Movie Review

syd lucy sheedy actress

Lisa Cholodenko's High Art is well made, but so effing depressing that I was in tears afterwards. It was almost as sad as Brian De Palma's Sisters when Margot Kidder's sweet boyfriend brings her a birthday cake and she goes psycho and I ran out of my flat and hung out in the lobby until the rental video was Off The Premises. I can't be objective about movies that are done so effectively that you can imagine turning off the movie and walking into Sisters or High Art in real life. Radha Mitchell is Syd, who is way more intimidated than she should be about the pond scum who are her colleagues at Frame, a trendy rag celebrating Photography as Art. Meanwhile, the receptionist eyes her enviously—what the heck did Syd ever do to become an associate editor instead of me? For one thing, Syd is still a gopher, despite the promotion to the new title. Syd lives with James (Gabriel Mann), who is a decent guy, but not right for her. A leaky ceiling leads Syd to photographer Lucy Berliner (Ally Sheedy) and her German lover Greta (Patricia Clarkson). Both are heroin addicts, and Syd is tolerant, like so many uncomprehending outsiders are. In her subsequent visits, she even participates in their scene, but recreationally. Lucy eyes Syd like catnip and Greta picks up on it and is jealous. We also see Lucy's visits to her mother (Tammy Grimes), who talks about Greta as if she were a Nazi. Syd tries to get Lucy's work into Frame magazine and both the pond scum and Lucy reluctantly acquiesce. It all leads to the inevitable clinch between Syd and Lucy, which changes both their lives way too much right away and, ultimately, not enough over the long haul. There is still the heroin issue to be resolved, as well as Greta. And the clueless receptionist continues to be envious of Syd. Sheedy and Clarkson certainly look sad and strung out, as if they'd been stranded at a depot where the buses don't come or go anymore. In contrast, the apple-cheeked Syd looks straight off the farm. Great acting and writing all around, but almost as nihilistic as Sisters AND On the Beach on the same double bill! I cheered myself up with Adrienne Shelly in Teresa's Tattoo TWICE after High Art was over.

1998 (R) 102m/C Radha Mitchell, Ally Sheedy, Patricia Clarkson, Tammy Grimes, Gabriel Mann, William Sage, David Thornton, Anh Duong; D: Lisa Cholodenko; W: Lisa Cholodenko; C: Tami Reiker; M: Shudder to Think. Independent Spirit Awards ‘99: Best Actress (Sheedy); Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards ‘98: Best Actress (Sheedy); National Society of Film Critics Awards ‘98: Best Actress (Sheedy); Sundance Film Festival ‘98: Best Screenplay; Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards ‘99: Best Cinematography, Best First Feature, Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson), First Screenplay. VHS, Closed Caption

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