Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Last Station review

I actually saw this one in the theater a few weeks ago and with traveling and whatnot, forgot to post my review. And unlike Bright Star, this period piece actually stays with you, and unlike several other historically based movies lately, actually assumes we know very little about the topic and teaches us only what we need to know, without force feeding it. The Last Station is based on the true story of the final days, weeks and months of Leo Tolstoy's life. Christopher Plummer, in his Oscar-nominated performance, plays the author of Anna Karenina and War and Peace, who has become the leader of an almost cult-like following that seeks to live life outside of the government and in some sort of harmony. It had little exact explanations of what people in "the movement" wanted, just that worldly possessions were a pretty evil thing, and sharing them with all people would make you a better person. However, he was part of the aristocracy and his wife, Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren in a terrific Oscar nominated performance) was really pissed he was going to give away the rights to his novels, leaving them without income when Leo dies. They have a very volatile relationship, still full of passion and love, but with so much distance in their current beliefs that they can barely interact anymore. Paul Giamatti plays an assistant of Tolstoy's in "the movement" and enlists the help of James McAvoy to spy on them. McAvoy plays a young idealist who just wants to serve "the movement" and doesn't really help Giamatti undermine the Countess, as he hopes to do. However, finally Giamatti, with the help of one of Tolstoy's daughters, convinces Leo to flee to live out his life according to the simple tenets of "the movement". Sadly, he's old and sick, and only makes it to a railroad station when he can't make it any further. His love for Sofya comes out in his dying ramblings, and they are reunited as he's dying.

It's a really interesting movie, and told with beauty and restraint. The violent fights between Plummer and Mirren have absolutely no restraint. They play a couple that has obviously lived and loved for decades and knows what's what in their marriage and inside each other. Their chemistry is amazing, just for the power and presence they command on screen. Giamatti is a perfect weaselly character that he's played (intentionally or not) countless times. You're never sure he wants to totally ruin everything or is just trying to help. McAvoy is all earnestness and hope that this movement he's joining is a good thing and that he can be helpful to it. All the performances are really good, but I was most struck by Kerry Condon who plays McAvoy's love interest who only joined the movement to escape Moscow and be able to eat and live for free, so she doesn't actually believe in everything and makes McAvoy question all his beliefs. McAvoy's real-life wife, Anne-Marie Duff, played Tolstoy's conniving daughter. Odd trivia I thought I'd share. My only complaint about the movie, and it wasn't a small issue, wasn't the fact that all the actors spoke with a British accent (though they're supposed to be Russian) but rather than they used the FULL Russian name EVERY time they addressed anyone. I've been told this is customary in Russia, but hearing them say Lev Nikolayevich every time they spoke to or referred to Tolstoy in an English accent was really distracting. It was a good movie, and if you like period pieces, Russian history, or incredible acting, I recommend this movie. 3.5 Lambs/Stars

1 comment:

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