Monday, February 22, 2010

The Last Station

Since my last post was already incredibly long, I didn't include the final thing I did this weekend: watch The Last Station. Here's my brief take on it.

The Last Station is a pedestrian, mostly unremarkable production that is distinguished by terrific performances, especially Helen Mirren as Countess Sofia, a conniving woman prone to hysterics who nonetheless wins over the audience's sympathies. Mirren gives the film real heat. The scenes between her Sofia and Christopher Plummer's Leo Tolstoy really make the movie. Here is a couple, married for a long time, both passionate, who--when they are not driving each other to madness--are madly in love. The film is really a story about love that has persisted. Most stories are about newfound love or the discovery of love, but The Last Station focuses on love as a bond through the years. In Mirren and Plummer's portrayals, we see an old couple who have seen way too much and know all there is to know about love. There are no effusive words about love exchanged between the Countess and Tolstoy, but when the two of them literally crow at each other in the film's best scene, there is no denying the film's appeal.

The love story completely trumps the film's other intrigue, the battle between Sofia and Vladimir Chertkov, played by a weasely Paul Giamatti, over Tolstoy's copyrights. Sofia wants to keep it in the family, while Chertkov wants it ostensibly for the benefit of the people or, more likely, himself. This story is never as interesting as the domestic interplay between Tolstoy and Sofia. The parallel love story between James McAvoy's character and a fellow Tolstoyan also pale in comparison. If not for Mirren and Plummer, The Last Station would simply be an ordinary, run-of-the-mill Masterpiece Theatre production with a big name cast.

Grade: B-

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