If you think a movie about Geoffrey Rush painting Armie Hammer's perfect face sounds dry, think again. Directed by Stanley Tucci and adapted from James Lord's book A Giacometti Portrait, Final Portrait is a witty and intimate plunge into the intersection of brilliance and insanity.
The film begins in 1964 in Paris, where Lord (Hammer) agrees to pose for the Swiss painter Alberto Giacometti (Rush). What is meant to be a speedy portrait session balloons into weeks of finicky touchups as Giacometti agonizes over brushstrokes with borderline-sadistic intensity.
Yet Final Portrait never feels monotonous or claustrophobic. Using close-ups of Lord's face to capture Giacometti's perspective, Tucci thrillingly ushers us into the creative process.
More importantly, he lets us relish Rush's gleeful performance, which is punctuated by puffs of cigarette smoke and Giacometti's favorite cry of artistic exasperation: "Aw, fuck!"
Amid the film's wonders, however, are horrors, including a scene in which Giacometti reveals his violent childhood fantasies. In light of the sexual-misconduct allegations against Rush, that moment is nauseating in a very real way.
Critic's rating: 3/4 stars.
Final Portrait is rated R and open Friday, April 13 at Fox Tower.