CREDIT: Sony Pictures Classics

This review was originally posted on News Cult in March 2018.

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

Director: Stanley Tucci

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R for Artistic Frustration F-Bombs and a Few Slips of Nudity

Release Date: March 23, 2018 (Limited)

Can we please, as a society, be done with the idea that artists are just slaves to inspiration that comes and goes as it pleases and is totally beyond their control? Sure, there is something ineffable about sparks of creativity, but the actual act of creation requires discipline and firm decision-making, i.e., things that are within our control. Now, films that portray artists who insist on being totally subject to the whims of the universe are not necessarily in agreement with this philosophy. In the case of Final Portrait, writer-director Stanley Tucci is more interested in the friendship between Swiss painter Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) and American writer James Lord (Armie Hammer) than in making any judgment on Giacometti’s chaos. But when such excess is presented matter-of-factly, it tends to be incredibly frustrating.

While visiting Paris in 1964, Lord agrees to be painted for a portrait by Giacometti, who assures him that the sitting will last “an afternoon at the most.” But that afternoon lasts into one more day, and soon enough that extra day has ballooned into a fortnight. Sometimes, Giacometti’s pauses are legitimate, as when he is running a fever or has business to attend to. Other times he just wants to eat, or he doesn’t even bother coming up with an excuse. It is essentially stated at one point that this state of incompletion is where he feels most comfortable. Rush’s wild mane is perfect for Giacometti’s untamed nature, and Hammer is the ideal fit for Lord’s constant bemusement. But overall, we and James are stuck in a dour loop that has us thinking, “Shouldn’t this be over already?” And it certainly does not help that this is taking place during what is apparently the cloudiest two-week stretch in Parisian history.

Elsewhere, there is some business involving Giacometti’s prostitute companion/frequent model Caroline (Clémence Poésy) and his frustrated wife Annette (Sylvie Testud), but hardly anything of note happens in those plot threads. That portion of the film is unceremoniously wrapped up by Giacometti paying off a couple of pimps with huge wads of cash.

There are a few moments that break up the excruciation, like a driving montage set to breezy ’60s French pop music. Giacometti and Lord’s occasional walks are welcome, as it is pleasant to just be outside. Plus, those strolls provide loopy non sequiturs, like Giacometti’s query of “Have you ever wanted to be a tree?” As a portrait of a friendship, Final Portrait has its moments, but as a portrait of a portrait, it never focuses enough on the tension of when James Lord will finally break free.

Final Portrait is Recommended If You Like: Geoffrey Rush Squinting, Armie Hammer’s Face Acting, Watching Someone Quickly Gulp Down Wine and Coffee

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Sitdowns