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Final Portrait

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Final Portrait

Final Portrait is one slice of the life of renowned artist Alberto Giacometti. It is a compelling look at the inner life of a man possessed a study not of his art but of the man himself that lingers long after we leave the theater.

James Lord (Armie Hammer) is the American author who will write a book about the few days he spent with Giacometti (Geoffry Rush) at the end of his own trip to Paris. When he arrives at the painter’s studio, Lord announces he has a short time before his flight home to America and wanted to say goodbye. Giacometti announces that he wants to paint his friend’s portrait, an undertaking he promises will take only a few hours.

The hours turn into two weeks for Lord who calls home frequently to report his delay. During the prolonged and frustrating work sessions, we absorb the details of Giacometti’s studio, his unfinished paintings, his personality, and the possible truth that everything about Giacometti is unfinished. Is that the cause of his deep frustration?

The studio is in an unassuming, quite rundown part of the city, no fancy address for this famous man. As we are brought inside, we see a large room cluttered with the tools of his trade. Scattered on tables and counters, unfinished sculptures and paintings wait for his hand. Or are they finished? That’s the thought that comes to mind as we watch the painful passage of time as Giacometti paints his portrait of James Lord. He starts, covers his beginning with a light gray paint – it’s not right – and starts again. It’s the primary message of the film – Does this brilliant artist ever know exactly what he wants to produce and is he ever satisfied?

As we follow Giacometti’s tortured process of creating a painting or a sculpture, we realize he is surrounded by unfinished work. Director Stanley Tucci wisely assumes that he can’t read the artist’s mind. He just shows us the unfinished result. As Giacometti paints, thinks, and erases repeatedly, we in the audience try to imagine what inner turmoil is causing all the changes. When that question falls short of any answer, we accept that this is what sets his work apart. His mental process is his alone. We have learned that his work springs from his mind to the canvas as if it were uninvited and suffers his own rejection nearly every time.

Clemence Poesy plays Giacometti’s resident prostitute/lover. Tony Shalhoub is the artist’s brother, Diego. Armie Hammer is wisely restrained as the understanding friend, and Geoffrey Rush becomes the focus for everyone in the audience as well as in the movie. His Giacometti is astonishing in a state of silent frustration with his own work. He seems to be daring himself to fail by not knowing his own goal. Director Stanley Tucci gives us not a finished portrait of the famous artist, but a portrait of the chaotic mind and surroundings of a brilliant man.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Final Portrait
Word Count: 495
Running Time: 2:07
Rating: R
Date: March 18, 2018

 

I, Tonya

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

I, Tonya

I, Tonya is not a story about an ambitious mother driving her reluctant daughter. It is about the ambitious daughter who has loved skating since she first stepped on the ice when she was three years old. When her mother, Lavona (Allison Janney) sees that, she devotes her own manic, focused energy to propelling Tonya (Margot Robbie) all the way to the Olympics. In driving her daughter forward, this mother becomes a monster, but Tonya also wants that gold medal.

If we hadn’t watched the public side of all this unfold in the1984 Olympics, it would be impossible to believe either the personalities or the steps taken to ensure Tonya’s success. It is so violent at points that disbelieving laughter ripples through the audience. Did this really happen? Yes. Filling in the details is this movie’s gift to us.

Mother and daughter – labeled “white trash” within the skating community – resent deeply the judges insistence that champions come from “appropriate” backgrounds. They are defensive of who they are even though the reality is more one of behavior than class.

Off the ice, Tonya marries, leaves, and returns to Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), a stupid man with a consuming mean streak. As Tonya works her way up in the skating world, Jeff makes plans to write letters to Nancy Kerrigan – Tonya’s main competitor – to throw her off her performance in the upcoming games.

Jeff’s awful pal Shawn Eckardt (Paul Walter Houser) takes the plan up a notch by swatting Kerrigan’s leg with a sharp instrument. If you didn’t see the TV of those games, you may think this is overplayed. It isn’t. The villains are both dumb and mean and the mother is without honesty. Tonya herself, while not part of the planning, lets us know how she feels about her treatment by the judges.

Why would you want to go to a movie laced with cruelty, stupidity, and malicious acts? First, because every single actor does a genuinely good job. Margot Robbie is terrific as the accomplished, driven Tonya who is riven with resentment and anger at the culture of the skating world and at her own background. Julianne Nicholson (Diane Rawlinson) is good as the coach who stepped into this family mess.

Allison Janney creates a woman who embodies harsh selfishness and real life cruelty that equals anything I’ve seen on screen before. Hers is a blockbuster performance of a woman driven by resentment at her lot, ambition for her daughter, and a willingness to do immoral and illegal things to further her cause. She will do, and does, whatever it takes.

You will see guns, alcohol, ambition, crime, cruelty, and hatred all marshaled to get Tonya to the top. You will also see this true story come to life in some of the best performances of this year. And you may, as I did, leave the theater thinking of all the negatives rolling in Tonya’s head as she said, “I was loved for a minute.”

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : I, Tonya
Word Count: 501
Running Time: 2:24
Rating: R
Date: 14 January 2018