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Originally published Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 3:04 PM

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Movie review

'(Untitled)' paints wry portrait of gallery life

"(Untitled)," Jonathan Parker's uneven satire about the New York art scene, is dominated by Marley Shelton's energized performance as an ambitious Chelsea gallery owner, a culture vulture we haven't seen before.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

'(Untitled),' with Marley Shelton, Adam Goldberg, Eion Bailey. Directed by Jonathan Parker, from a screenplay by Parker and Catherine di Napoli. 96 minutes. Rated R for language and nude images. Seven Gables.

So many artists are unappreciated during their lifetimes. How does an art lover deal with "the Van Gogh syndrome"?

That's the dilemma of an ambitious Chelsea gallery owner (Marley Shelton), who thinks she's found a way. In Jonathan Parker's hit-and-miss satire, "(Untitled)," she especially favors the art shows that get the worst reviews.

If the critics hated them so much, she reasons, something interesting must be going on; she wants to "own the 21st century" by recognizing genius no one else can see.

Of course, there's always the danger of falling into the emperor's-new-clothes syndrome, and she errs on that side rather spectacularly.

She also gets involved with two brothers: a commercial painter (Eion Bailey), whose upbeat work challenges no one; and an avant-garde composer (Adam Goldberg), who is happiest when he's alienating audiences.

Parker, who directed the Crispin Glover update of Herman Melville's "Bartleby," starts out on a wry note that proves difficult to sustain.

The impenetrable gallery jargon is quite funny at first, and the brothers' twisted relationship is set up nicely, but the movie errs when it takes itself seriously.

The cast, however, has a freshness that floats even the heavier scenes, and Shelton is perfect as the energized heroine. Ruthless, smart but pretentiously wrongheaded, she's the kind of culture vulture we haven't seen before.

John Hartl:

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