Saturday, January 16, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Last Station

The Last Station
Directed by Michael Hoffman
Released January 15, 2010

It’s a treat to find to have a number of fine actors assembled together in one film. In the best case, it works out that all of the talent involved delivers equally impressive performances, and not one of them gets overshadowed or downplayed by another. In the next best scenario, one or two performers steal the show and carry the film. And then there’s the possibility that the intense overdose of stardom results in no one turning in a fine performance, and the movie fizzles or outright flunks (like “All the King’s Men” in 2006). This late-opening 2009 awards contender falls under the first category, and it’s a wonderful breath of fresh air.

The diversity of the talent amassed in this film is quite refreshing. Christopher Plummer has been acting since before his signature role in “The Sound of Music,” and after over 150 films, he’s finally found a fantastic part that fits his subdued but booming demeanor as Count Leo Tolstoy. Playing off of him and his spectacular presence is Helen Mirren, a recent Oscar winner for “The Queen,” as the jealous Countess Tolstoy, and the two of them share a magnificent chemistry in the midst of the interference of so many interested parties looking out for the welfare of the estate, the theology, and their own best interests. Paul Giammati twirls an extravagant mustache which matches his manipulative and seedy attitude. James McAvoy sneezes nervously as Tolstoy’s young apprentice baffled by the meddling on all sides regarding the Tolstoy family. The real shining star of the film is the impressive Kerry Condon as a Tolstoyan follower who tangles with McAvoy’s character. The ensemble is uniformly terrific, and all blend in perfectly to the society they are trying to emulate and portray.

The film itself is perhaps a bit fleeting and flighty, but overall it’s a good story that continues to get better as it proceeds along. There’s humor throughout the film, but it doesn’t quite detract from the seriousness and impact of the story. The script is smart and the dialogue is very often fascinating, delivered expertly by the superb cast. It’s a compelling tale that often incorporates elements of Tolstoy and his writing in a fantastic way, and that enhances it from merely a simple biopic to a great movie. Overall, it’s made even better by the casting choices and its unique take on intriguing and inspirational source material.


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