Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Last Station

The young man (James McAvoy) has been hired to be an assistant to Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer). Rather, he has been placed there as a spy by Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), one of Tolstoy's top loyalists, in order to spy on the Countess (Helen Mirren), whom herself opposes her husband's ideals. From here we get a portrait of the last year in the life of Russia's greatest author. The Last Station is a nice little film that provides an acting showcase for Mirren and Plummer, both Academy Award nominees this year. Mirren goes over-the-top in portraying the manic depressive countess who desires only love and her family's financial well-being. The 80-year-old Plummer is in fine form, donning the scruffy beard and playing Tolstoy as a grandfatherly idealist. It is only when these two are offscreen that the film begins to wane. It is then that an unnecessary romantic subplot involving the McAvoy character is introduced, and it does hurt the film, but only marginally. This is a loving if not simple portrait of an important man and his loving, outlandish wife.