UNTITLED (Dir. Jonathan Parker, 2009)
Watching one of my favorite movies recently - Richard Linklater's DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) - I remembered thinking back in the day that amongst its cast of attractive newcomers (which included Matthew McConaughey and Parker Posey) that the acerbic Adam Goldberg was going to break big.
I was way wrong about that, but Goldberg has honed his sardonic persona nicely over the course of a respectable career in indie films as well as many roles on television.
As the pretentious pianist Adrian Jacobs in Jonathan Parker's film (UNTITLED), Goldberg shows like in Julie Delphy's 2 DAYS IN PARIS that he's more than capable of carrying a movie and giving it a discernable viewpoint.
The viewpoint here is about the world of modern art in New York City. Goldberg performs with a small group of musicians his particular brand of "sound art". It is cacophony made out of clanging metal buckets, violently banging the piano keys, and intermittent primal screaming. The group's "music" makes small audiences even smaller when performed live.
Goldberg works his worry lines harder than usual while arguing: “Is the market place the measure of value in our culture? That would mean the death of all thought!”
Goldberg's brother (Eion Bailey) is a painter who has had success selling his work to hotel chains through a gallery run by Marley Shelton. Shelton is the only one who seems to appreciate Goldberg's compositions and arranges for them to play at one of her exhibitions.
So you just know that Shelton and Goldberg are going to get together and Bailey is both going to feel left out of Shelton’s heart and her gallery.
There is more going on than that in this film, but it’s thwarted by misguided characters such as Zak Orth as a computer millionaire art collector who only exists in the film to be ridiculed. Likewise a minimalist "thumbtack" artist (Ptolemy Slocum) who Bailey resents because he gets a show at Shelton's gallery and is treated like a genius.
Much more effective is the brash Vinnie Jones as a over-hyped visual artist who chews and spits out all the scenery around him. There is also a subtle turns by Lucy Punch billed only as "The Clarinet."
Still there is a lot of worth to the discussion about modern art and commerciality this film provokes. There are considerable comparisons to be made with the work of Terry Zwigoff (Think GHOST WORLD not the contrived ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL).
Another rewrite could've sharpened its attack, but (UNTITLED) has enough bite in it to be recommended. Goldberg may not be sneering his way to the bank, but with fine vehicles like this he's definitely building a wealth of indie cred.