Art must never be rushed is a phrase that is constantly heard among the creative community. While it’s true that you should never force creativity, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when the process drags on and on with seemingly no end in sight. A blend of drama and some well placed humor, Final Portrait captures both the brilliance and the utter madness of famed painter Alberto Giacometti as he attempts to create his latest masterpiece, all the while testing the patience of his subject, writer James Lord.
While on a trip to Paris, James Lord (Armie Hammer) agrees to pose for his friend, acclaimed painter Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), thinking that it will only take a couple of days to finish. Lord has seen plenty of Giacometti’s portraits before and believes it to be an honor to sit for his next one, but after a few sessions it becomes clear that there is more madness than method to his work. What was supposed to be a quick portrait soon turns into days of scrapped designs and delayed return flights home, while Lord wonders if it will ever be completed.
Final Portrait is an intimate look at both the friendship between Giacometti and Lord and the craftsmanship of his paintings. Rush does a fantastic job at portraying the intricacies of Giacometti as we get to see him go about his daily business outside of his work. He’s a man of habit, who always orders the same food from the same restaurants. Having Lord tag along with him brings an outsider’s perspective, highlighting the obscure nature of his character. One hilarious scene in particular features Giacometti trying to figure out where to hide the thousands of dollars he’s just been paid. It’s no big deal to him, but for Lord it’s absolutely mindblowing.
Giacometti is an artist who is never completely satisfied. Despite the millions of dollars he’s made or the fame that comes with it, he still sees himself as nothing special. It’s why he’s constantly painting over his portrait with grey paint and starting over again in a never-ending strive for perfection. He’s a prime example of the tortured artist.
Whether you’re a fan of the painting process or just a good character drama, Final Portrait features some great performances by Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer that’ll keep you invested through the slow moments. It doesn’t quite reach the perfection director Stanley Tucci may be reaching for, but as the film teaches, not all great things need to be perfect.