Fur is an odd, weird film, but unfortunately not in a good way. It’s one of those rare movies I haven’t heard before, despite its star cast of Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr., but I guess there is a reason this has been fallen out of the general consciousness. It’s not a sleeper or anything, it’s just an oddity. It attempts to tell the life of Diane Arbus, who I didn’t know much about and still don’t know much after having seen this movie, because it refuses to tell her story, but instead some fantasy version of a story that tells us nothing.
The opening moments of the movie were very intriguing to me. In the beginning, we meet a woman (Nicole Kidman, acting really well, especially under the circumstances), who is curious, determined, fascinating, fearless, wanting to take pictures at a nudist colony. The movie feels like her, giving us naked people, even men, with penises, right at the beginning of the movie. If you know what a big deal a penis is in an American movie, you’d see that this opening is rather daunting and intriguing.
We then cut to several years earlier where we see the same woman, completely different, passive, adapted to a suburban, marital life, wary of her perfect appearance. She does as she is told by her husband (Ty Burrell, convincingly tragic) and her parents. It is a controlled, suffocating life from which we only in glimpses see that she tries to escape. Again, I found all of this rather interesting because the question of how she turned into that appealing woman from the beginning is material for a very compelling movie. But then the movie really starts to fail miserably.
Because instead of showing how she freed and transformed herself, instead the movie for some inexplicable reason decides to show how a man changed her and made her into to the person we meet first. This man is Lionel (Robert Downey Jr., who has no chance of showing much), fully covered in hair, looking like the Thing or any other hairy creature you can imagine. She is fascinated by him and is lured into his world, a world of freaks and such (which Arbus was known for photographing), meanwhile distancing herself from her husband and kids. It becomes terribly pretentious and silly from that point on and is hard to take seriously. But the worst of it is that her strength seems to come only from meeting and loving him. She remains totally passive until she comes out a strong woman. He even hands her all the materials she needs for expressing herself as a photographer, so that it less seems like a talent she discovers within herself, but more like a gift by him. It is a rather offensive way of showing her transformation as it almost becomes his story instead. Which is just another reason that this movie is not worth watching. What a wasted opportunity.