Review: Final Portrait

Score: C

Director: Stanley Tucci

Cast: Armie Hammer, Geoffrey Rush, Tony Shalhoub, James Faulkner

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rated: R

There are bad movies, and then there are movies that are fine but a complete waste of your time. Sometimes the latter is more frustrating. Given the talent involved in Final Portrait, it's a real shame it's not better, or at least has a point.

Everyone involved, including Stanley Tucci behind the camera, has created vibrant films about colorful characters. So why does Final Portrait seem like it's going through the motions, with excellent period detail covering its mediocrity? It's a mystery.

Armie Hammer, introduced in the blandest expository voiceover ever recorded, plays James Lord, an author who wrote biographies on numerous artists. His life story is fascinating, but Hammer doesn't get to play any of that. He's only here to bask in the talent of Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), who asks Lord to sit for what he claims will be his last portrait.

The running joke of the film is that Giacometti is a perfectionist, so a couple afternoons turns into weeks before Lord has noticed that Giacometti has basically wasted his time. Why? Well, the film doesn't really explore that, because Giacometti is only a two-dimensional character. His genius is declared early on, so everything is excused. He smokes, he drinks, he openly carries on an affair with a local prostitute. The film doesn't seem interested in interrogating why Giacometti uses people to satisfy his impulses.

Great biopics truly explore the person beneath the accomplishments, but Final Portrait never goes below the surface. We aren't made to understand why Giacometti is so revered, why so many people put up with his behavior, or why this story is even worth telling.

The film feels like sketch, both in the artistic sense and the comedic sense. It's certainly not that funny, but the gag is that Lord upends his life to satisfy Giacometti's whims. Lord will sit for the portrait, Giacometti will realize it's not up to his lofty standards, then shout an expletive. Repeat the next day.

There's a fascinating film or two to be made about Lord, Giacometti and their friendship. But like the painting, Final Portrait needed to undergo a lot of revisions.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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