Pay close attention to this film's subtitle which calls it an Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. Imagination plays a big role here, because other than the actual existence of this woman and her claim to fame as one of the most original photographers to come out of America, there's not much about this story that is based on fact. The filmmakers are at pains to point out that they have invented characters and situations "that reach beyond reality to express what might have been Arbus's inner experience in her extraordinary path" and if that sounds a bit affected, you're not too far off the mark. The film neatly sets up Arbus Nicole Kidman reprising her Virginia Woolf role from The Hours as a woman constrained by her cultural surroundings.
The person who came up with this metaphor for Arbus' artistic awakening is Steven Shainberg, whose last directorial effort was the witty "Secretary. She and Allen run a successful photography studio together, but Diane pronounced Dee-anne has begun to chafe under the constraints of her buttoned-up, lates lifestyle. That's the biography part. The imaginary aspect begins when, late one evening, a new tenant moves into the building. Lionel Robert Downey Jr.
His frustrations come to the fore, and he slams her head into the sofa, forcefully pinning her as he takes her from behind. As in all post- feminist films — and this is definitely one — our heroine must reject the needs of others in order to discover her true self. Terrified and attracted at the same time, she screws up the courage to visit the mysterious Mr. Sweeney and ask to shoot his portrait.