Geoffrey Rush the stand-out in 'Final Portrait'

Armie Hammer and Geoffrey Rush
Armie Hammer and Geoffrey Rush in Final Portrait.

I wish I’d learned more about artist Alberto Giacometti before seeing Final Portrait — I may have enjoyed it more.

Set in Paris in 1964, this modest film takes us inside the studio of 20th century Swiss Italian sculptor and painter Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) as he attempts to sketch a portrait — something he claims will only take a couple of hours, but which eventually takes the artist 18 days.

His subject is American author and art critic James Lord (Armie Hammer), with the screenplay based on Lord’s own book of the experience, and for what would be the Swiss artist’s final portrait.

Alberto doesn’t work very quickly, painting then repainting while constantly being distracted by his favourite muse, the prostitute Caroline (Clemence Poesy). His wife Annette (Sylvie Testud) barely tolerates this, while his brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub) just shrugs it off as he assists Alberto around the studio.

Lord watches all of this initially with humour, then becomes a little worried as days stretch into weeks and he begins to understand that for Alberto this painting will never be completed. Indeed, Alberto never sees any of his work as ready to show to the world.

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The director, Stanley Tucci (you might know him for his acting — his performance in The Lovely Bones scored him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor) draws top-notch performances from his cast, particularly Geoffrey Rush who is magnificent as a shuffling, grunting, explosively foul-mouthed joy Alberto Giacometti, and even looks like him.

But we are let down by a thin and repetitive screenplay. Rather like the sittings, the film just goes on and on and on. One might say that watching Final Portrait is like watching paint dry…

ROK’s Ratings: 2.5 glasses of bubbly