Stanley Tucci’s Final Portrait is a small, quiet movie. It stands out, in its own way, in that it does nothing to stand out. There’s not much in the way of plot, or action, of course, hearkening back to its own title as a cinematic portrait of two men. In this era of big budgets, a film like Final Portrait is sometimes needed and always, I think, commendable. This does not, unfortunately, make Tucci’s film a must-see, since the aspects of its nature that make it stick out also hamstring the movie, making for a picture that doesn’t really go anywhere or do much.
The concept is simple. Armie Hammer plays writer James Lord, who befriended Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) late in the artist’s life. At Giacometti’s behest, James comes to his studio to sit for a portrait with the promise that it will only take a few hours. Instead, James ends up tied up in Giacometti’s whimsies as a complex artist, having to postpone his trip home since Giacometti keeps restarting the painting or getting distracted with other pursuits.
There’s an amount of absurdity to the whole ordeal, but it never really builds up to anything. Final Portrait is more a film to be admired and casually enjoyed. That admiration stems from Tucci’s attempts at examining the creative process, especially in someone who could be considered both exceptional and an eccentric. It’s not always something that’s portrayed in more whimsical terms, but in Tucci’s case, he’s done just that, a challenge since Giacometti is a particularly idiosyncratic and not always enjoyable man. Much of the film’s thesis revolves around the question of whether or not this man’s difficult nature is really worth the trouble without ever really answering the question fully.
The problem, however, is that the film doesn’t have much else to examine. It’s mostly a two-man show between Rush and Hammer, who are both fine and have an amount of camaraderie. But the based-on-real-events aspect of Final Portrait keeps the whole thing boxed in a bit. The film unspools for 90 minutes and then, almost conveniently, ends. There’s nothing really satisfying about the ending, nothing especially profound and nothing especially enlightening. But as a whole, the movie feels unsatisfying. Not to say it’s not watchable and occasionally enjoyable, it’s just a small, forgettable treat that you have to be in the mood for and little more. Rated R for language, some sexual references and nudity. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse.