"His concepts are OK, but I hate all of his work." That's the deadly assessment of a persnickety music critic after attending avant-garde composer Adrian Jacobs' (Adam Goldberg) latest concert in director/writer Jonathan Parker's amusingly titled (Untitled). Rather than be chastened or bummed out by that review, Adrian barrels full steam ahead. Who cares whether anyone wants to listen to his "sound art" or not? (Buckets, smashed wine glasses and popping bubble wrap are Adrian's tools of trade, rather than conventional musical instruments). To him, it's all about the "process."
Parker's entertaining send-up of the modern-art scene wittily contrasts Adrian with his more successful painter brother Josh (Eion Bailey), whose blah canvases adorn the walls of corporate offices, hospitals and municipal buildings. An additional layer of sibling rivalry stems from the fact that Adrian has started seeing Chelsea gallerist Madeleine (a terrific Marley Shelton), Josh's art dealer and longtime unrequited crush.
For her part, Madeleine is perfectly willing to exploit cash-cow Josh in order to keep her struggling gallery afloat. But she's too embarrassed by the blatantly commercial nature of his work to give him a proper show. Hypocrisy comes in all shapes and sizes. As snobbish as he is about his atonal compositions, Adrian snarkily turns up his nose at some of Madeleine's more, uh, outré artists.
Parker, whose best known previous film was the pitch-black 2001 Herman Melville adaptation Bartleby starring Crispin Glover, doesn't cut very deep here. Yet if every one of Parker's self-absorbed characters is ultimately exposed as some kind of fraud, he stops short of vilifying them. Even smarmy Josh isn't portrayed as a total creep. He's just a yuppie careerist aching to find meaning in both his art and his superficial, albeit pretty darn cool, life. That doesn't make him a bad guy — just an obscenely wealthy "unrealized" one.