In London's contemporary art world, everyone has a hustle. Art Spindle runs a high-end gallery: he hopes to flip a Mondrian for millions. One of his assistants, Beth, is sleeping with Art's most acquisitive client, Bob Macclestone. Beth wants Bob to set her up in her own gallery, so she helps him go behind Art's back for the Mondrian. Bob's wife, Jean, sets her eye on a young conceptual artist, Jo, who lusts after Art's newest assistant, Paige. Meanwhile, self-absorbed lesbian videographer Elaine is chewing her way through friends and lovers looking to make it: if she'll throw Dewey, her agent, under the bus, Beth may give her a show. And the Mondrian? No honor among thieves. Written by
If you enjoy watching bad people go down in flames, this film is for you. First-time director Duncan Ward shows a deft hand managing multiple story threads set against the malodorous intestinal cavity of the contemporary art world, while John Mathieson's photography, pleasing to the eye as always, works splendidly with the up-tempo jazz phrasings of composer Janusz Podrazik.
A sterling ensemble, led by Stellan Skarsgard, Gillian Anderson and Danny Huston, keeps us guessing and amused as lives and careers unravel. Special kudos to Jaime Winstone, who in the role of a fiercely ambitious performance artist looking to carve a name for herself, delivers the film's strongest performance. We are treated also to appearances by Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley and Alan Cumming -- the film's most likable characters -- whose upright aims provide elegant counterpoint to the opposing riffraff inhabiting the story.
The film's only noticeable weak spot lies in the characters of Beth, played with limited effect by Heather Graham, and Joany, played by Meredith Ostrum, who seems to be impersonating a tree. Otherwise, a fine independent film. It will be interesting to see what Ward comes up with next.
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