Armie Hammer plays James Lord, a journalist, and close friend of the venerable, eccentric Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), who has agreed to pose for a portrait, promising to sit for the renowned post-impressionist painter one afternoon. If only that was the case, for he’s dealing with a perfectionist, somebody who doubts their self-worth as an artist, and who is never happy at the finished result. Fast forward two weeks, and Giacometti still seems no closer to finishing up, and there’s only so many flights back to the States his model is willing to rearrange.
Similarly to his on-screen presence, and overall demeanour, Tucci injects a playful edge to this endeavour, with a delicate, light touch that compliments the narrative well. That’s not to say we’re dealing with a comedy here, but it is a film that carries a distinctive charm and wit, which is something of a necessity given the vast majority of the film is based in this one studio, putting more emphasis on the dialogue. Final Portrait feels as though it could have been based on a stage play such is the limited settings and low number of characters, with the only other notable roles belonging to Sylvie Testud, as Giacometti’s wife Annette, as well as Clémence Poésy, playing his mistress – and finally Tony Shalhoub, portraying his brother Diego.
But we embody the role of James, which is a tried, tested and triumphant perspective to adopt when dealing with a biopic, as it’s not always wise, nor possible, to get into the mind of the subject, especially when they’re such a creative, unpredictable genius like Giacometti. Take Philomena, or Life – sometimes it can be more intriguing to have a character who represents us, working as something of a voyeur, watching the master at work from a distance. It’s yet another impressive performance by Hammer too, who can’t seem to put a foot wrong at present, though needless to say this is a film that Rush makes his own, beguiling and volatile, with the two going hand in hand seamlessly.
The biggest challenge here is for Tucci to prevent tedium kicking in, as the entire premise revolves around that very notion, for we need to get a sense for James’ dismay and sheer boredom and sitting in exactly the same spot for a fortnight, barely granted permission to scratch his face. It’s a sentiment we do need to get a flavour for, but it can’t take precedence over the project, otherwise this would be a quite dreadful cinematic experience – but thankfully Tucci gets the balance right, and this remains engaging throughout. Guess it turns out that hearing Geoffrey Rush shout “fuck” over and over again, never does get boring.