A film only Hilton Kramer could love, (Untitled) aims wide and misses, its satire of the contemporary-art scene seemingly lifted from the transcripts of late-’80s Senate debates about the NEA. Two highly competitive brothers—Josh (Eion Bailey), a successful painter of dull hotel art, and Adrian (Adam Goldberg, also executive producer here), a perpetually indignant, brow-furrowing composer of atonal music—fall for wildly ambitious Chelsea gallerist Madeleine (Marley Shelton). Director Jonathan Parker, who co-wrote the film with Catherine DiNapoli (the duo behind 2001’s Bartleby), wants to have it both ways, snidely mocking his protagonists and then granting them happy, art-affirming endings. Adrian scribbles furiously in his Moleskine, Madeleine wears noisy textured clothing (though Sarah Lawrence tees are her preferred sleepwear), and cry-baby Josh wonders, “When did beauty become so fuckin’ ugly?” Tepid spoofs of Damien Hirst and Charles Ray creations fall flat as finger-wagging proof of contemporary art’s aesthetic bankruptcy, a Warholian-like aphasic thrown in for more laffs. (Untitled) tries to reignite who-gets-to-call-it-art debates that haven’t been taken seriously for at least a decade—which may explain the recurring presence of a plastic bag that appears to have blown in off the set of American Beauty.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 20, 2009