Fur: an Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

  • 15
  • Steven Shainberg (2006)
  • US
  • 117 min
Fur: an Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
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Film Review
Reviewed By
3 out of 5

With the likes of Dogville, Birth and Eyes Wide Shut on her CV, it's fair to say that Nicole Kidman has always been fearless in her choice of projects. It's also fair to say that this phantasmagoric biopic of American photographer Diane Arbus is definitely one of her stranger roles. Arbus, who died in 1971, was inspired by Tod Browning's cult 1932 movie Freaks and is best known for her photographs of people on the fringes of society. Billed as "an imaginary portrait", this highly fictionalised biographical snapshot follows Arbus as she embarks on a mysterious and sexually charged affair with her neighbour Lionel (Robert Downey Jr), a man suffering from hypertrichosis, which gives him a werewolf-like abundance of hair. Director Steven Shainberg (Secretary) lets Kidman's bashfully aroused performance lead us into a neurotic, psychosexual fairy tale in which normality gives way to a dark carnival of weirdness as the photographer discovers her artistic calling. Kidman and Downey Jr excel as the improbable lovers, and the unusual premise just about survives Shainberg's constrictive pacing and mannered direction.

Plot Summary

Fantasy biographical drama based on the life of the famous New York photographer, starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. Frustrated wife and mother Diane Arbus becomes captivated by Lionel Sweeney, a man with a condition that gives him excessive body hair, who moves into her apartment block. She soon finds herself on a voyage of self discovery as Sweeney introduces her to others like him who live on the fringes of society.

Cast and crew


Diane Arbus
Nicole Kidman
Lionel Sweeney
Robert Downey Jr
Allan Arbus
Ty Burrell
David Nemerov
Harris Yulin
Gertrude Nemerov
Jane Alexander
Grace Arbus
Emmy Clarke
Sophie Arbus
Genevieve McCarthy
Jack Henry
Boris McGiver
Tippa Henry
Marceline Hugot
Allan's new assistant
Emily Bergl


Steven Shainberg

Other Information

Theatrical distributor: 
Available on DVD
Released 16 Mar 2007
Certificate 15
Entertainment in Video Ltd