Final Portrait

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Final Portrait Movie Poster Image
Insightful story about art has language, sexual situations.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Perseverance is the key theme of the story -- many characters (the artist, his friend/model, and his wife) persevere. Loyalty is more or less rewarded. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alberto Giacometti is presented as a complex, flawed person: He's unfaithful to his wife and gripped by self-doubt, but he's also immensely talented, honest (even about his infidelity), and dedicated. James Lord is intelligent, patient, and, most importantly, perceptive and understanding of art and its process. Annette is stable, intelligent, and in touch with her own feelings.

Violence

Vague threat of violence from the handiwork of some pimps. 

Sex

A woman poses nude from the waist up. The naked backside of a "working girl" in a brothel is seen. The artist is unfaithful to his wife; he has sex with a prostitute. Other characters also have affairs.

Language

"F--k" is used several times. A handful of other curses, notably "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent, matter-of-fact smoking and drinking (wine).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Final Portrait is a 1960s-set dramedy about the complicated life of renowned artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush). Expect to hear a fair bit of strong language, including several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." There's also sexual content: Extramarital sex/cheating is treated as a given circumstance, a woman briefly poses nude from the waist up, and a prostitute's nude backside is seen. It's Paris in the '60s, so smoking and drinking are treated as a way of life, but they're not particularly glamorized. Ultimately this is a story about art, the artistic process, perseverance, and friendship. It's good, but the big question may be whether teens will be interested, considering that much of the "action" involves a main character (Armie Hammer) sitting for a portrait over many days.

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What's the story?

In 1964 Paris, American writer James Lord (Armie Hammer) is asked to sit for a portrait by his friend, renowned artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush). Though the process is supposed to take just a couple of days, it stretches out over a much longer period, giving the increasingly exasperated James a close-up look at Alberto's artistic process and life. Among those drifting through or crashing into the studio are Alberto's long-suffering wife, Annette (Sylvie Testud); his Sphinx-like brother, Diego (Tony Shalhoub); and Caroline (Clémence Poésy), a prostitute with whom Alberto has been openly carrying on an affair with -- and who has become his muse. FINAL PORTRAIT is based on Lord's real-life memoir, A Giacometti Portrait.

Is it any good?

Stanley Tucci's filmmaking powers have grown: He makes this dramedy a tactile, immediate, authentic experience, as well as an insightful look into the artistic process. Final Portrait's cast is outstanding, and its dialogue is intelligent and witty. But it's Tucci's directorial choices that take a subject that could have been dry and fill it with life. Along with cinematographer Danny Cohen, production designer James Merifield, costumer Liza Bracey, and composer Evan Lurie, Tucci has crafted a world that has temperature and texture; we can almost smell Alberto's cluttered studio. Tucci lets viewers witness complete character interactions, often in two-shots (in which both people are shown, rather than cutting from close-up to close-up). This avoids some of the stilted formality of, say, The King's Speech (also filmed by Cohen). Here, close-up is used judiciously to provide insight into Alberto's vision or share detail. The studio feels painstakingly specific, with a kind of ordered chaos to which only the artist holds the decoder ring. The unfinished sculptures, paintings, and random stains feel like the inner workings of a unique brain. And Tucci's actors really live in it. 

We feel for Alberto's wife, Annette. It's clear that she loves him; we eventually see that he loves her, too. But he's not living with the social constraints that "regular" people do. Annette accepts this, painfully, but requires her own comforts. As knowing brother Diego, Shalhoub quietly wields a smile of wisdom. He's a necessary, calming influence. Meanwhile, Caroline (Poésy) is a cherry bomb thrown through the window, a bracing jolt whenever she comes reeling in. And all these pieces, along with Alberto's self-doubt, eccentricities, and undeniable talent, somehow form the balance he requires -- as Diego puts it, a balance of unhappiness. As our window into the story, Lord is sympathetic and just as curious as we are -- and just as exasperated as the ordeal drags on. As the artist, Rush gives one of his most settled and centered performances. As he rattles off the reasons why he does the things he does, he drops cultured pearls, such as how "no portrait is ever finished." The drinking, smoking philanderer achieves a kind of zen as he complains of the hopelessness of his task. Lord says, "Then what we're doing is meaningless and impossible." Giacometti agrees: "And I'm not even doing it. I can only try to do it." You might find profundity in that if you thought about it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how artists and art are typically depicted in film. How does Final Portrait compare? Do you feel like it gave you any insight into the artistic process -- or the inner workings of this artist's mind and craft?

  • Alberto is openly carrying on with a prostitute. What do you think of the way he treats his wife? She also has a lover. Is this sort of arrangement OK if both spouses/partners are willing? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Some people define perseverance as "working hard, despite obstacles, in pursuit of a long-term goal." What was Alberto's long-term goal? What's one of your long-term goals? Why is that a priority?

  • What did the filmmakers do to make you feel the movie's time and place, the temperature, the texture? 

Movie details

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