In this follow-up to Secretary, director Steven Shainberg continues his fascination with the dirty thoughts of pretty women, using famed documentary photographer Diane Arbus as the inspiration for a fictional 50s housewife character on the cusp of discovering her inner Bettie Page. When we first see her, 'Diane' is riding a bus down a lonely highway and dreamily scribbling freak-fetish words into a notebook: "Slaughterhouses...albinos..." The newly freak-curious heroine is on a quest to visit Camp Venus, a nudist colony where she will dip her toe, and which is presented to us as some kind of happy, grass-green Brigadoon of free-swinging penises. One man cheerfully mows the lawn au naturel. The film both begins and ends at this camp, and it's in these bookends that you can spot some clear signs of trouble for Fur. Nicole Kidman has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to nude work, but the requisite shots of her during these scenes are noticeably ungenerous and awkwardly shot, strongly suggesting the use of imperfect body doubles and some kind of director-star battle that ended in an editing-room stalemate.
Kidman is also only half-present during key points throughout the rest of the film. She sits stoically quiet and stone-faced during scenes which re-hash the kind of prurient, hand-in-pants question-and-answer sessions that appeared in Shainberg's last film. "Did you ever show your nanny your tits?" she's asked at one point by Robert Downey's upstairs-neighbor character, who guides her into a circus-tent world and who has a hair-face like Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf. His shedding hair clogs the plumbing of his neighbors, which first causes saintly mother and wife Diane to step away from her domestic bliss one evening to knock on his door. The character, named Lionel, is invented out of whole cloth, like much else in the film and serves as the bridge Arbus the Nice Lady will cross to become Arbus the Artist. Watching Kidman interact with Downey, you ask yourself -- did she think she was signing on to do a real film about Diane Arbus and only too late found herself in this Skinemax interpretation of Beauty and the Beast?