'Final Portrait' has stagey action

'Portrait' centers on the creation of an artistic depiction of writer James Lord that is created by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Armie Hammer (l.) and Geoffrey Rush in 'Final Portrait.'

The famed Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti gets the nutty genius treatment in writer-director Stanley Tucci’s “Final Portrait,” starring Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer and based on the memoir by Giacometti’s American writer friend, James Lord. Known for his sculptures of rail-thin, sensually elongated people, Giacometti was also an accomplished painter. Set in 1964, the movie is primarily about how Lord, about to fly back to New York from Paris, agrees to sit for his portrait, expecting the job would be finished in a few hours or days at most. He ends up posing for quite a bit longer as Giacometti obsessively fudges and smudges his handiwork.

The film’s inexplicably grayish palette doesn’t do the artist or the artwork any favors, and the action, which mostly takes place in Giacometti’s plaster sculpture-strewn studio, is stagey. Hammer is rather bland, which he tends to be when he’s not playing edgy swellheads (as in “The Social Network”), but Rush masticates the scenery with a high degree of expertise. After all, he's played nutty geniuses and eccentrics before (Albert Einstein, Peter Sellers, David Helfgott in "Shine"). In a supporting role as Giacometti’s beleaguered wife, who endures her husband’s penchant for prostitutes, the great, undervalued French actress Sylvie Testud strikes the film’s most resonant note. Grade: C+ (Rated R for language, some sexual references, and nudity.)

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