My Art: Laurie Simmons’ Flawed Semi-Personal Feature Debut

Laurie Simmons is far more interesting as an artist than as an actress or director, as manifest in her semi-autobiographical debut, My Art, a film she has made at the age of 69.

Our Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

Simmons’s daughter Lena Dunham, a more promising director herself (“Tiny Furniture”), appears briefly as one of Ellie’s former students.

In the film, Simmons plays Ellie,  a single woman with no partner or children. She is only accompanied by her lovable dog, Bing, who is handicapped,

When the tale begins, Ellie travels upstate to spend time by herself at a friend’s summer home, and work on her new project, which involves re-enacting scenes from popular movies.

She gets assistance from the gardeners (Robert Clohessy and Josh Safdie) who are frustrated actors, as well the father (John Rothman) of a student.

For her latest project she has chosen not just popular movies, but cult pictures like Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot,” Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and Huston’s “The Misfits,” among others.

It’s impossible to tell if the mimicked re-creations are intetionally or unintentionally funny.

She transforms the adjoining barn into her a workplace, where she stages her elaborate recreations of Classic Hollywood–a reworking of numerous MGM musicals of yesteryear about “Let’s Put on a Show.”

The enterprise gets slightly more enjoyable, when the three local men who participate all show romantic interest in Ellie–a wishful thinking (wet dream) of a older woman, who needs to mature. 

Throughout Ellie remains stubbornly determined to resist anybody or anything that might interrupt her pure and genuine art work.

The film’s best moments belong to the eccentric performers Simmons has chosen, such as Parker Posey, who easily overcomes the limitations of the material.

An artist and photographer, Simmons has staged scenes for her camera with dolls, ventriloquist dummies, objects, and people, to create photo that reference domestic scenes.

She is part of The Pictures Generation, a group of artists from a 2009 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art that includes Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Louise Lawler.