An Honest Living

Jordan Freese’s documentary pays loving tribute to Chicagoans who pursue their artistic ambitions while holding down day jobs. Perceptive and humane, it inspires sympathy for the subjects (a musician who rehabs houses, a martial arts instructor who teaches high school math, a burlesque dancer who works as a secretary in the financial district, a painter who teaches night-school drawing classes) without resorting to sentimentality. The dominant tone is bittersweet, the theme of creative fulfillment offset by frank discussions of loneliness and disappointment. Freese raises some fundamental questions about the nature of art and the role of culture in everyday life, making this a rewarding conversation piece as well. An Honest Living screened twice in January as part of the Siskel Center’s “Stranger Than Fiction” series—someone should book it for a full run.