Mapplethorpe – Smith may be great, but Timoner’s pacing is a real problem

Mapplethorpe is now available to rent, buy or stream.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Ondi Timoner’s biopic of the revolutionary and conflicted artist Robert Mapplethorpe has moments of vision and ingenuity, but it ultimately falls into the same trap as many biopics by attempting to cover Robert’s complex life in a single cinematic time frame. Robert challenged established views of the male body in art and redefined the thin line between pornography are art, his evocative imagery full of the beauty of nature as he explored the human body and its biological and artistic roots. Much like his art, Mapplethorpe was raised catholic, and as a result, he repressed the very feelings he held inside as he battled with his sexuality, place and purpose. Like so many, including Keith Haring, he left his home town in his teens for the bright lights and freedom of New York, and it was here his artistic strength and confidence blossomed alongside his once-repressed sexuality.

The job of portraying this complex personal journey sits in the capable hands of Matt Smith, and from the outset, Smith provides us with a great performance. It’s clear that Smith understands the light and dark of Mapplethorpe’s world and the eventual trappings of his success. However, this strong performance is let down by a significant problem in the film’s pacing. Mapplethorpe never allows the audience to gain any genuine perspective on the artistic impulses that drove Robert as we haphazardly jump from one scene to the next. There is an unneeded emphasis on capturing his entire life in a two-hour runtime, which only diminishes the final film and the complexity of Mapplethorpe’s work. The result is a disappointing, over-simplistic and rushed biopic that never allows us into Robert’s world.

Country: USA 🇺🇸

Director: Ondi Timoner

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