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Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Tucci’

Emma Thompson

“THE CHILDREN ACT”  My rating:C+

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R 

“The Children Act” is part probing characters study, part  melodrama.

The first part works better than the second.

Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a family court judge who gets all the tough cases. As Richard Eyre’s film begins she is deciding whether conjoined twins should be surgically separated…even if it means one of them will die (they have only one heart).

Fiona deals with her emotionally taxing work by building an aura of professional detachment.  Unfortunately, that detachment has spread to her private life.

One day her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci) announces that he’s thinking about having an affair.  He points out that he and Fiona haven’t had sex in almost a year — she just isn’t interested.  Jack isn’t willing to announce an official end to his sex life.

Fiona blows up and throws him out of the house. All this domestic turmoil comes as she  faces a news-generating trial over a teenaged Jehovah’s Witness whose leukemia cannot be treated until he receives a blood transfusion.

The kid’s doctors are suing to be allowed to perform the transfusion.  The boy’s parents (Ben Chaplin, Eileen Walsh) maintain that this violates their religious beliefs; if their son dies, then it’s God’s will.

All this pressure is making Fiona a snappish wreck; she makes life miserable for her  dutiful law clerk (Jason Watkins).

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Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer

“FINAL PORTRAIT” My rating: B 

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Genius marches to its own drummer, expecting mere mortals to keep time. And if we can’t maintain the pace, genius will  blithely leave us behind.

Stanley Tucci’s droll “Final Portrait” depicts a real-life encounter between genius in the form of artist Alberto Giacometti and a young man whose idol worship will come back to bite him in the posterior.

Based on James Lord’s 1965 memoir A Giacometti Portrait, the terse film, punctuated by deadpan comedic moments, depicts a 1964  incident in which Lord, an American journalist who often wrote about the art scene, agreed to pose for Giacometti in his Paris studio.  At the time the artist — known worldwide for his elongated sculptures — was concentrating on painting.

Lord is played by Armie Hammer as a handsome but bland young man, probably gay, who jumps at the chance to spent time in the presence of greatness. Giacometti, portrayed with rumpled self-absorption by Geoffrey Rush, says the sittings will take only a couple of days.

Maybe he honestly believes that. In any case, the three-day sitting turns into a three-week slog, with Lord dutifully showing up every day to sit while Giacometti paints, chain smokes, curses, repeatedly starts over and finds numerous opportunities to lay down his brush for alcoholic and sexual diversions. What started out as an art fan’s thrill turns into an existential dilemma.

Time after time Lord must cancel the plane tickets for his return to New York. He detects a recurring pattern in the artist’s  reluctance — refusal even — to finish a work, and begins playing mind games to nudge Giacometti toward completing the portrait.

All this unfolds in the artist’s studio, a cellar-like dustbin right out of “La Boheme” filmed in desaturated hues that cloak everything save human flesh in a gray pall.

And there are other players here. Like Giacometti’s brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub, almost unrecognizable), an artist in his own right who spends most of his time puttering around the edges of his older sibling’s environment and vaguely commiserating with Lord.

There’s Mrs. Giocametti (Sylvie Testud), who is not thrilled that her husband has become so obsessed with a local prostitute (Clemence Poesy) that he buys her a spiffy sports car.

 

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“MARGIN CALL” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on Oct. 28)

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R

First-time features don’t get a whole lot more assured than “Margin Call,” an incisive, biting look at the Wall Street mindset and machinations that led to our current economic doldrums.

A bunch of suits standing around talking may not sound all that interesting, but J.C. Chandoor’s writing/directing debut (after several years in advertising and music videos) succeeds both as a personal drama of individuals and as an allegory about what plagues American capitalism in this still-young century.

And he has an ensemble cast to kill for.

Unfolding over 24 hours in a major New York banking/investment firm, this boardroom thriller unfolds like a finely-tuned stage play, with sharp characterizations and killer dialogue. (You may be reminded of Mamet in his prime.)

But if it feels claustrophobic, it’s claustrophobic in just the right way, suggesting a much bigger world where the decisions made overnight in this tower of glass will have devastating repercussions.

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