Question: Have you ever wondered what Ellen Barkin would look like if she were made-up like a sad, smoking clown? Or what the effect might be if she made twitchy faces while standing in a forest or posing against bright white sets straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey? If you can say nothing else about Cam Archer's Hollywood-eats-itself drama, it answers those nagging questions. We still go to the movies to see faces, and time hasn't diminished the pleasure of watching Barkin's compellingly crooked mug onscreen one iota. (She remains the female Belmondo.) That doesn't mean that anyone should have to sit through such a teeth-gnashing example of film-school pretentiousness to get a hit of uncut Barkin.
Playing a retiring actor, the New York native spends most of Shit Year lounging around L.A. and arguing with a hot young dude (Grimes). Occasionally, some future-shock vignettes put her on what could be a space station; why connect anything when you can merely film your star in the most grainy, gorgeously harsh black and white this side of a Warhol screen test? Archer's 2006 feature debut, Wild Tigers I Have Known, couched a coming-out story in avant-garde aesthetics, but this sophomore effort simply mashes together various festishized film homages, from Opening Night's performer psychodramatics to Persona's direct-address close-ups. Barkin may be the equal of Gena Rowlands or Liv Ullmann. Her director's clumsiness, however, suggests he isn't fit to hold Cassavetes's or Bergman's old camera cases.
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