Final Portrait may as well be titled Stanley Tucci’s Passion Project, and that’s not meant as a compliment.
The well-intentioned yet underdeveloped and uninteresting profile of an artist near the end of his career suffers from its subject not being well known to the average moviegoer. While cultural unfamiliarity is certainly no instant death knell for a film, Tucci’s presentation and Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of Swiss/Italian painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti fails to elicit much enthusiasm for novices to delve deeper into his life and work.
Into this insular 1964 Paris comes writer and art-lover James Lord (Armie Hammer), who befriends Giacometti and agrees to sit for a portrait. Told the process will only take a few days, complications arise that delay its completion, though beyond professing his esteem for Giacometti several times and how it’s an honor to play an integral part in creating a work of art, it’s unclear why the noticeably agitated James continues to delay his flight back to the States so he may continue to partake.
Presumably, some of the appeal is simply witnessing the ups and downs of Giacometti at work — easily the highlights of Final Portrait, along with the Parisian scenery — though there’s little variation to the master’s method.
This half-formed approach likewise extends to Giacometti’s stilted relationship with his wife Annette Arm (Sylvie Testud, La Vie en Rose) and the bond with his prostitute muse Caroline (Clémence Poésy, In Bruges), few of whose perks are shown onscreen. The presence of Tony Shalhoub as Giacometti’s brother Diego is also largely a mystery, other than to serve as a sympathetic ear for James as his frustrations with the artist persist and multiply.
The core cast members do what they can with their parts and emerge with their reputations generally unscathed, but the material is too flimsy to provide them with notable moments and receives minimal support on the filmmaking side.
Opting for primarily handheld camerawork, Tucci’s visual style isn’t overly distracting, though it produces no memorable shots and, like the story it contains, leaves all but the most ardent Giacometti devotees wondering why it exists.
Grade: C. Rated R. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)