There are two distinct sides to what a screenplay is about: The verisimilitude and the truth. The verisimilitude is the who, what, when, where, why and how. It is the nuts and bolts, things like the setting and the plot. But the truth is where a screenplay really stands out. What is the common experienced, the shared nature, which drives the plot forward?
High Art, writer/director Lisa Cholodenko's debut full-length feature, gained some notoriety with the casting of Ally Sheedy, still best known to most as Allison from The Breakfast Club, as the lesbian love interest. But the lesbian affairs and rampant drug use are nothing more than window dressing to what the film is really about – unhappiness with life as it is and the lack of will power to change it.
The protagonist is Syd (Radha Mitchell), an assistant editor for a top photography magazine who is looking to move up the ladder. She meets Lucy Berliner (Sheedy), a "retired" photographer who lives above her in a New York apartment building. Syd ends up acting as Lucy's muse as their professional and personal lives begin to intertwine.
The chemistry between Mitchell and Sheedy is absolutely electric. When the two of them are on screen alone, there is always a sense of danger or excitement. It is that feeling that sustains the film through some of its slower moments.
But topping both Mitchell and Sheedy is Patricia Clarkson, who's over-the-top characterization of out-of-work German actress Greta brings both levity and an interesting context to Syd and Lucy's burgeoning relationship. In a constant narcotics-induced fog, Greta is dependent on Lucy for love, money, drugs and life. It is everything that Lucy is trying to escape professionally and in her own life.