Review: In ‘My Art,’ the Artist Laurie Simmons Plays an Artist

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Laurie Simmons as Ellie in ‘My Art.”

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Film Movement

The trap in assessing “My Art” is to assume that it contains more autobiography than it does. That’s true despite the possessive adjective in the title, or the fact that the director, an artist, plays an artist, Ellie. Or even the fact that the filmmaker is Laurie Simmons, who, detractors might scoff, belongs to a family of oversharers. (Ms. Simmons’s daughter Lena Dunham appears briefly as one of Ellie’s former students.)

Part of what seems to separate Ms. Simmons from Ellie is that Ellie is alone, with no children or partner except for a dog with bad hind legs. “My Art” can be read as a study of how her solitude helps and hinders her creativity.

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Trailer: ‘My Art’

Ellie travels upstate to spend time by herself at a friend’s capacious summer home. Her latest project comes to involve re-enacting scenes from famous movies. She is helped by two gardeners (Robert Clohessy and Josh Safdie) who are frustrated actors, as well the father (John Rothman) of a student. They mimic scenes from “Some Like It Hot,” “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Misfits,” among others, making the point, to paraphrase Ellie, that it is impossible for any one performer to truly be another.

Your feelings on “My Art” may vary depending on whether you find that idea compelling. “My Art” invests far too much in the conceit. (The re-creations look like unfunny “Airplane!” parodies.) Part of the problem is that Ms. Simmons has surrounded herself with more interesting actors, including a scene-stealing Parker Posey.

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