Saturday, April 24, 2010

Movie with Abe: The City of Your Final Destination

The City of Your Final Destination
Directed by James Ivory
Released April 16, 2010

Part of the allure of international travel is a chance to experience a new place with a completely different culture, people, landscapes, and traditions. In a film, the best way to visit an uncharted location is to follow a novice character on his journey to somewhere others have come to call their home, where he can have a guide to escort him and the audience through the magnificent wonders of this international place. In “The City of Your Final Destination,” one man experiences a somewhere new, but he also has the opportunity to get to know a different way of living.

Omar (Omar Metwally) is a professor seeking to write a biography of a famous author, Jules Gund, who has recently died. Denied permission by his surviving family members, he travels to Uruguay to change their minds. When he arrives, he is greeted with open arms by Gund’s mistress Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg), with kindness and courtesy by his brother Adam (Anthony Hopkins), and with nothing but unsubtle hostility by Jules’ widow Caroline (Laura Linney). Omar’s stay at their enormously rich property allows him the chance to understand how the three coexist and what kind of rewards a magical life of plentiful solitude can offer.

“The City of Your Final Destination” is both an excellent dramatic character study and a surprisingly funny exploration of what happens when a small group of people spends far much time around only each other. The character oppositions are incredibly stark, exemplified by the controlling, stone-cold women embodied in Caroline and Omar’s girlfriend Deirdre (Alexandra Maria Lara), the kind-hearted souls given the gift of luxury and not keen to forget what they’ve received – Arden and Adam’s partner Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada) – and those simply trying to explore life: Adam and most especially Omar. The interactions of these varied personalities are especially intriguing and enlightening.

Director James Ivory’s frequent writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who won Oscars for penning Ivory collaborations “Howard’s End” and “A Room with a View,” has crafted an excellent script based on a novel by Peter Cameron. The story sparkles with lively, interesting characters and fascinating conversations designed to elicit more about each of them. The movie is beautifully filmed and wonderfully guided by Ivory’s careful hand, as much an ode to the culture of the land as it is to the people involved. The cast is universally outstanding, featuring terrific breakout crossover performances from the likes of Sanada (“Lost”) and Lara (“The Reader”). It’s a majestic return to form for veteran actors Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney, and a veritable sign that they should be working for years to come. All in all, it’s an amazingly charming movie that manages to be great without being violent, starkly serious, or even remotely unpleasant.


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