Final Portrait: A Character Study

Armie Hammer as James Lord. Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Final Portrait is a character study that takes us into the mind of what an artist goes through as they work to perfect their work.

It’s the latest directorial offering from Stanley Tucci.  The camera framing is absolutely beautiful with its handheld movements.  Through his direction, Tucci makes some wise choices early on to hide the portrait of James Lord (Armie Hammer) even if audiences would beg for even just a glimpse of the master artist, Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), at work.

It’s Paris 1964 and art lover Lord is visiting across the pond.  It’s in Paris where Lord agrees upon being asked by his friend to sit down for a portrait.  Even though photographs have started their rise in popularity by this time, Giacometti still dedicates his time to painting portraits by hand.  No matter how much it frustrates him to do so, he keeps at it.  Lord agrees to sit down for a painting when his friend tells him that it will take a few days at the most.  He’s set to return to America so it’s not like he could stay in Paris forever.

At one point, Giacometti tells Lord that he “has the head of a brute” and “looks like a thug.”  For Lord’s part, for as  long as he’s in Paris to sit for the portrait, he comments that “it feels like there is very little hope.”  It wouldn’t be so far from the truth.  This just proves to show how neurotic many artists can be when it comes to making their work as perfect as it can possibly be.

Even though the artist is married to a younger wife, Annette Arm (Sylvie Testud), it is’t enough for him.  He requires the attention of Caroline (Clémence Poésy), a prostitute who he has been seeing for four years.  She commands enough of his attention that it’s no wonder that a painting that should have been done in a few days ends up taking a few weeks.  Even with the jazzy piano score, the 90 minute running time doesn’t do it justice in that regard, including a montage of a few days there towards the end.

At it’s core, Final Portrait is a movie that offers insight into the artistic process and the friendships that go with it.  Creating art isn’t pretty.  Even for the best people, it’s a process that could take months if not years.  Is Giacometti blessed or cursed with what he does?  It’s hard to say.

CAST:  Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clémence Poésy, Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud

Following it’s world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics opened Final Portrait in theaters on March 23, 2018 with an expansion to follow.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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