Final Portrait - Movie Review by Ben Cahlamer

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Final Portrait


Directed by Stanley Tucci

Written by Stanley Tucci

Starring Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clemence Posey, Tony Shalhoub, James Faulkner, Slyvie Testud


Searching for the meaning in life affects us all, especially artists who are always trying to capture something at its best. For famed painter Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), it is about finding just the right stroke of the paintbrush. No better place exists to do that than in Paris where in 1964, Giacometti convinces his old friend, American critic James Lord (Armie Hammer) to delay his return to the United States to model for Giacometti’s latest portrait.

Stanley Tucci’s touching story of friendship, love and most of all, art, sees an audience exercising as much patience as Lord must have exerted while he modeled for Giacometti in 1964. Or Hammer for this film. The beauty is in the humanity between two old friends, as we explore Giacometti’s idiosyncracies and his drab, slate grey surroundings. This is perhaps the starkest, yet calming reminder of the chaos and patience each friend had to express during the creation of the artist’s last masterpieces.

Even those in his life, his wife Caroline (Clemence Poesy) have trouble working through Giacometti’s chaos. His biggest champion and biggest disappointment is his brother, Diego (Tony Shalhoub). Yet, they share a common humor; they see the world for what it is, not what they want it to be, ultimately causing Lord to see the painful beauty of the chaos.

I got the sense that Stanley Tucci enjoyed torturing Armie during the production. I’ve seen Mr. Hammer speak publicly and he is very poised; the perfect subject for an extended painting. Where I think Mr. Hammer delivers on his performance is in his roguish humor or cheekiness. As Giacometti constantly utters profanities when he messes up, Mr. Rush and Mr. Hammer have glints of humor in each of their eyes: each is enjoying the others idiosyncratic nature.

There’s a scene early in the film where they are dining together and, Mr. Rush plays an ‘older character’, rough around the edges. As such, he plays “rough-around-the-edges” so very well, while he imbibes exceptionally fast while shunning his meal. All the while, Mr. Hammer is enjoying is bottle of Coca Cola. Through this interaction, we get a sense of where each of the friends stands; the level of commitment each has to the other. They find one another frustrating, but they realize they need each other.

There is a purpose in the flow of the film, adding a layer of frustration while watching the film. Like a fine painting or a glass of wine, it takes time to come to mature. I actually enjoyed seeing two friends enjoy one another’s company, a family that cares for one another even if they cannot stand one another as they use humor to diffuse the frustration; Geoffrey Rush is a genius at swearing at the right tempo. It’s not enough to distract you, but it will make you laugh.

I saw this at SXSW and it played to a sold-out crowd at the recently-concluded Phoenix Film Festival. It isn’t for everyone, but the cast, the deliberate pace and the comradery caught me up in the films’ charm.

3.5 out of 4