New Film ‘PAINT’ Depicts the Underside of Creating Art

Sandra Bertrand


To be or not to be—an artist.  For anyone who’s ever pursued painting as a career—house painters excluded—you might want to think again.  There are enough cliches about the profession to fill MoMA’s walls: “You have to live miserably to be an artist.”  “We can’t edit our psyches.”  “I’m not a decent human being, I’m an artist.” “We show up late.” 

There’s more you’ve probably come to easily recognize, but the ones I’ve quoted are all in Michael Walker’s film, PAINT.  It’s a darkly comic treatise on a universe of scam, copulation, money, schmooze and more copulation.  How talent manages to squeeze between the cracks to reach success—which means, in commercial parlance, all paintings sold—stretches even the most gullible of minds.

That said, the callousness and charm of Walker’s young hopefuls might just revive hope in the most cynical among us.  It’s an engaging if misguided trio, with Dan (Joshua Caras) as the Westchester upstart who manages to capture our attention with his doleful eyes and outsized ambition.  Kelsey (Olivia Luccardi) from Bushwick, Queens, is about as unpolished and self-deprecating as they come.  Unfortunately, she never learned what a misogynistic world she was taking on.  When she does land an agent, his best advice is to hang around the artworld superstar Julian Schnabel.  He will make her “a better person” plus he “wears a bathrobe to dinner.” Luccardi is all spunk and sincerity, turning in a performance worth our attention. Then there’s Quinn (Paul Cooper), a lanky sidekick to Dan who seems to survive by doing nothing besides being in the right place at the right time until he’s not.



There is a thin thread that weaves through Walker’s script: an age-old mother-and-son twist with a hint of betrayal that begs to become a tale in full cloth. Dan’s mother as played by Amy Hargreaves does her sincere best to elicit our compassion, but the art world our director’s script delivers keeps blurring the bigger story underneath.

An unexpected perk is the rarely seen Austin Pendleton as an aging art instructor.  He leaves little doubt that his shocks of white hair are the result of too many ignored warnings to his fledgling classes.  In characteristic desperation, he challenges his charges as to why they pursue a dead-end path in an indifferent world. Sadly, his part is over before the film has barely begun.

PAINT is finally another depiction of a world of gritty artifice, with so many potholes in the path, one can only wonder why anyone would make the journey in the first place.  There is a deeper story to be told—one of struggle and the moral strength to believe in oneself, in order to produce something of true worth.  

Arguably, many would say you have to play the game, that it’s that simple.  If Walker ever chooses to write another version, he has assembled the players to do so.


Author Bio:

Sandra Bertrand is Highbrow Magazine’s chief art critic.


For Highbrow Magazine

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