Stanley Tucci’s “Final Portrait” Arrives in Austin Theaters

By Liz Lopez

Rating: C+          

There is not much that can be said about a feature film that has a very thin premise – an artist painting his subject – but writer/director Stanley Tucci’s work in “Final Portrait” manages to make the limited material into an engaging story for the audience. The fantastic performance by the actors who portray the two main characters at the heart of the story is also what allows the viewer to learn more about each of them and how they worked together. James Lord (Armie Hammer) is an American writer and art-lover who is on a trip to Paris and while there, painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) asks him to sit for a portrait that was to take only a day or two at the maximum. Giacometti keeps extending the time he needs to finish, so it became an extended stay that Lord was not anticipating. Lord wrote about his lengthy experience with the artist that is a perfectionist. Tucci adapted the memoir into this screenplay that reveals the frustration from those weeks in 1964.

Rush’s performance of Giacometti, the world-renowned artist, is superb as he displays how chaotic the artistic process becomes during the more than two weeks he spends having Lord return to his studio daily to sit in the exact same spot each day, wearing the same pants, shirt, jacket and tie. It is evident that Lord is friends with the artist, or has some type of bond with him; otherwise he would not have accepted the outlandish behavior and repeated delays of his return flight to America.

The audience viewing the film experiences what Lord did while silently sitting for Giacometti. The artist chain-smokes while he works in the small quarters and makes all kinds of sounds of displeasure while painting. The work session would start off with just the two of them, but the interruptions would begin from visits by Giacometti’s brother (Tony Shalhoub), the not –so -happy wife (Sylvie Testud), and his vivatous mistress who works as a prostitute (Clémence Poésy). At times, Lord’s sessions would come to an abrupt end by running off to cafés for lunch and dinner and plenty of red wine. Although this is basically a quiet film with no major action scenes, there certainly is plenty of boisterous activity when the mistress comes along to break any possible monotony.

Giacometti is not an easy person to understand, but as an art he proceeds to fill up the canvas and yet, decide to change it multiple times. Most of the time, the studio looks dark and smoke filled gray that would make most people feel depressed, but yet the close up shots of each of the actors then lights up the frame as each one undergoes this process. Shalhoub speaks quietly and evenly in a manner that reflects his personality as opposed to how wayward Alberto is. Hammer is also quiet and still, allowing his handsome features to be captured, yet still feeling the frustration of the delays.

The 90 minute film is rated R by the MPAA and will be released in Austin on April 20th

Source: Sony Pictures Classics

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