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The City of Your Final Destination: movie review

In 'The City of Your Final Destination' a biographer pursues his subject to the steamy lands of Uruguay where he discovers an intricate tangle of family relations.

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Jules's wife, Caroline (Laura Lin­ney), remains adamantly opposed; his mistress, Arden (Charlotte Gains­bourg), who lives on the compound with their 10-year-old daughter, takes a shine to Omar and wavers; Jules's brother, Adam (Anthony Hopkins), who lives there with his lover, Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada), is in favor of cooperating, though his participation comes with a price.

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Omar comes across as a bumbler and too insubstantial to serve as the focus of this human whirligig. From what we hear about Jules, he fits all too comfortably into the generic ­genius-womanizer expatriate mold of a Hemingway or Picasso. Ivory and Jhabvala are trying to coax the material into Chekhovian terrain, but the characters, with one exception, don't have the luminosity for that. They are steadfastly classifiable: Caroline is snippy-sarcastic; Arden is callow-winsome; Omar is clueless; Deirdre is ruthless.

Only Adam escapes the straitjacket, and that's because Hopkins, who was stunning in "The Remains of the Day," has a special affinity for Ivory's indirect style of direction. Both men move into dramatic situations from the sidelines, as it were; the big moments are all about nuance, not exhortation. Hopkins brings out Adam's courtliness but he also lets us see the dissoluteness and sorrows underneath. He's a novelistic character in a movie peopled by pencil drawings.

The Merchant Ivory movies hark back to a time when films were considered art only if they were derived from the classics. Some of the performances, such as Vanessa Redgrave's Olive Chancellor in "The Bostonians," have been towering, "The Remains of the Day" and "A Room With a View" are first-class adaptations, and several of the early, India-based movies, such as "Shakespeare Wallah," are marvelous. One can dislike half of what Merchant Ivory has done and yet, in principle, still support the cause. Cutting-edge isn't all. (Rated PG-13 for a brief sexual situation with partial nudity.)


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