(Untitled) is a comedy for anyone who has ever stood before an abstract painting or sculpture or witnessed a performance of interpretive dance and music, and thought “I could have done this.” The question of what, exactly, constitutes art is at the center of director Jonathan Parker’s satire of the New York gallery scene. The movie simultaneously mocks the vacuousness of the avant-garde and celebrates the spirit with which the artists pursue their sometimes pointless, futile passions.
None takes their craft more seriously than Adrian (Adam Goldberg), the composer of atonal symphonies performed by rattling chains, ripping paper and shattering glass. While his brother Josh (Eion Bailey) makes a comfortable living selling bland paintings that hang in hotel lobbies and office waiting rooms, Adrian can barely get anyone to attend his concerts, which one critic describes as bearing “no relation to the way human beings make sense of sound.”
(Untitled), which Parker co-wrote with Catherine di Napoli, follows what happens after a Soho gallery owner (Marley Shelton) takes an interest in Adrian’s music, which boosts his confidence and offers reassurance that he’s not just wasting his time.
Adrian is a classically trained musician who believes harmony is “a capitalist plot to sell pianos.” He’s the prototypical Angry Young Artist, railing at the world through his art.
(Untitled) argues that even though Adrian’s music may be unlistenable, his work has a validity that the outrageous installations by a popular, trendy artist (Vinnie Jones) do not, because Adrian’s art comes from the heart. That’s an obvious observation to build an entire movie around, and although (Untitled) makes a spirited effort to mine comedy from its outre characters and the orbits they inhabit, the picture feels thin and wan, like a joke you’ve heard 100 times too many.
Cast: Adam Goldberg, Marley Shelton, Eion Bailey, Vinnie Jones, Zak Orth, Lucy Punch.
Director: Jonathan Parker.
Screenwriters: Jonathan Parker, Catherine di Napoli.
Producers: Catherine di Napoli, Andreas Olavarria.
A Samuel Goldwyn release. Running time: 96 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. In Miami-Dade only: South Beach.