Good Person, Bad Film: Our Review of ‘Aggie’

Good Person, Bad Film: Our Review of ‘Aggie’

Art is an important part of Agnes ‘Aggie’ Gund’s life, even when she was an unhappy housewife and mother in Ohio. That unhappiness was stifling enough to make her take herself and her children to the New York City’s art scene. This film, then, captures the many lives she has lived, including the trajectory from being that housewife to her most recent incarnation. She, three years ago, sold her Liechtenstein for $165M, two thirds of which helped fund initiatives for criminal justice.

Gund’s daughter Catherine is the person responsible for this film, and a large chunk of it are conversations between mother and daughter. It also depicts conversations with other family members, colleagues and friends within the art world. And the topics are sometimes about the great artists she’s worked with at some capacity. Part of her mission in life was to make art more inclusive and bring a spotlight to female artists. She also wants to spotlight artists from different races all over the world. Artists who can make monumental works like their male counterparts.

The film, at first, reveals Gund’s quest for class and gender equality that goes back from the 1970s when she founded Studio in a School. That’s an organization that brings art instruction to public schools. The film shows this as proof that she’s a good person, which isn’t up for debate. But it doesn’t address the problematic nature of non profits. People who start non profits belong to two classes of people, and I guess I should have clued in on that in retrospect.

Regardless, Gund’s non profit work is just one aspect of her life that the film doesn’t connect to a larger fabric of her class privilege. Aggie also reveals in a conversation that she’s a Lebron fan, but the film treats that as an innocuous thing. But a part of the reason she’s rooting for Lebron is because her brother owns the Cavs. I’m sure there’s a way to slip that fact in the film without making it sound too didactic.

A film about a real life person like Aggie shouldn’t be a regurgitation of the facts and should contextualize them. But films shouldn’t be cagey about these facts neither. Another revelation is that Gund doesn’t understand John Waters’ work. But pushes for his legitimization in the art world anyway because of how he addresses race. She, a daughter of a ‘banker’, sees the unfairness of life and her complicity in it. But this film would have been more illuminating if it dealt on some specifics.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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