‘Final Portrait’ is Style Without Substance

by Christian Ramos on April 20, 2018

in Print Reviews,Reviews

 [Rating: Swiss Fist] 

Movies are an art form. They always have been and always will be even through this new age of watching them on the smallest of devices, there is still an ownership to the art. And on any screen there is not a single person who wouldn’t want to see Armie Hammer being painted for 90 minutes. Unfortunately, in actor/director Stanley Tucci’s new film, Final Portrait, like the act of painting some of the finest of paintings, it’s a slow draw to something worthwhile and the final delivery leaves you wanting more.

The setting is Paris 1964. During this age of art exploration and experimentation, many find themselves captivated by what Europeans have to offer. Enter James Lord (Armie Hammer), a lover of art who befriends famed painter Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush). Giacometti wants to paint Lord and does so. However, as an artist, many strokes of his brush lead him to doubt his ability to paint this painting. He constantly asks Lord for one day more in finishing the painting.

Together in the most subtle way possible, they sit together in Giacometti’s studio and create art. Lord, through these sessions, learns of the process of Giacometti. He keeps delaying his stay in Europe, wanting to travel back home to America, but the painting takes forever and a day. Even Giacometti’s brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub), his wife Annette (Sylvie Testud), and his mistress (Clemence Poesy of Harry Potter) do not understand the method to the madness.

Final Portrait is at its best in its quiet subtleness. The full-frame shots of artist painting subject illustrates the frustration of the two characters in their own processes. However also because of that, it’s pretty shallow water; nothing more than “I don’t like this painting, but maybe you will.”

In the end, there’s not much to Final Portrait. I remember seeing the trailer a while back on a screening of Call Me By Your Name and was impressed that Hammer had already picked up another arthouse type film alongside Geoffrey Rush. Rush is fine and I am pretty sure he can pull out a different accent out of his hat any day and embody whatever person he is playing. Even when the movie drags itself along, he at least has some sharp dialogue that can be appreciated. Hammer, like so many other of his performances, is pretty much one-dimensional.

This may be the hardest movie I have ever had to write about, readers. There is really not much going on in terms of a story, and instead we sit through pretty much one painting session the entire time. Normally you would expect this to offer some sort of existential purpose or greater theme, but Final Portrait left me with nothing.

Christian Ramos is a classic film fan, having had the dream to host Turner Classic Movies for years now. He also has a large amount of Oscar trivia in his head, remembers dressing as Groucho Marx one Halloween, and cherishes the moment Julianne Moore liked his tweet.


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