The Last Station
Reviewed in February 2010 / Click Here to Comment
Director: Michael Hoffman. Cast: James McAvoy, Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff, Kerry Condon, John Sessions, Patrick Kennedy. Screenplay: Michael Hoffman (based on the novel by Jay Parini).

Photo © 2009 Sony Pictures Classics/Egoli Tossell Film/
Zephyr Films
Intriguing to learn that Tolstoy was so explicitly deified in his own lifetime, to the extent that woodland communes of ascetic, self-sustaining disciples accumulated around his estate. That is, if this is even true: The Last Station is one of those relentlessly artificial and tedious arthouse dandelions that you entirely stop trusting, right around the time it decides that a cafeteria-quality romance between James McAvoy and Kerry Condon is as interesting as the deeper but oddly muffled dynamics between the Tolstoys, and that embarrassing boudoir talk between Mirren and Plummer is a merry substitute for facing the complex ties of ambivalent matrimony. Not for this movie to plumb the only interesting questions it ever raises, which are about those impromptu cults and about staying committed to a partner that no one else can stand. The film pushes its august performers into purple, bowdlerized versions of the subtler characterizations they'd surely have preferred to offer, and subsists on its own thin-gruel diet of overly literal dialogue, garish lighting, literal mustache-twirling, and on-screen captions that provide such odd cues as "Moscow, Tolstoyan Headquarters." James McAvoy makes off with one very sweet scene of tearful joy at being praised by a hero, all the more endearing since the praise is hardly unequivocal. Everything else amounts to endless shots of actors looking at each other, looking out windows, looking into windows, closing their eyes expressively, and looking yearningly out of frame. About ten minutes total feel remotely "historical." Whole film plays like a Garson-Pidgeon vehicle from the mid-40s, well after the Miniver good will had expired. Grade: D

Academy Award Nominations:
Best Actress: Helen Mirren
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer

Golden Globe Nominations:
Best Actress (Drama): Helen Mirren
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer

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