As writer and director, Simmons sets the disparate elements dancing together rather than colliding. As a performer, wry and ever so slightly comically hesitant, she imbues each sequence with a piquant longing, a restless intelligence, a passion to create in spite of the world’s indifference that makes her character’s struggles moving. Simmons collapses the distance between protagonist and creator so winningly that the fact that you’re watching My Art seems the film’s own happy ending.
The story finds Simmons, as a 60ish Simmons-like artist named Ellie, dashing from New York to a more successful acquaintance’s plush country manse. With a pair of local actors (Robert Clohessy and Josh Safdie), Ellie films herself as Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits and restages the finale of Some Like It Hot. These sequences play as unparodic interrogations of the original, of what they mean to Ellie, of what vital essence radiated out of the greatest movie stars but is absent in the rest of us. That’s not to say that Simmons fails to command the screen. She has mastered an offhand naturalness that makes Ellie’s minor discomfort fascinating. And as a director, she’s adept at suggesting mood through composition.