Take a Drink: for “Tolstoyan” maxims and beliefs
Take a Drink: whenever somebody writes something
Take a Drink: for anything you’d associate with a hippie commune today
Take a Drink: whenever McAvoy sneezes
Take a Drink: whenever Mirren takes a crack at her husband
Do a Shot: for chicken noises. Yeah, try and get that out of your head.
Do a Shot: Oohhh… so that’s what the title means
By: Henry J. Fromage (Five Beers) –
I just watched The Last Station, and I’m still hazy about what it’s about. I’m pretty sure that it’s the story of young, virginal James McAvoy and Kerry Condon, the young woman who snatches his V Card like a Las Vegas street magician, but also a bunch of Russians with uniformly English accents occasionally yell at each other in the background. I think The Last Station is a metaphor for the end of McAvoy’s childhood, cruelly stolen at the tender age of… 28?
Perhaps this picture, too, is a metaphor.
Okay, you got me. I hated this movie. Ostensibly it’s really about the last days of Leo Tolstoy’s (Christopher Plummer) life, as he’s torn between bequeathing his novels to humanity by relinquishing his copyright after his death, or following his wife’s (Helen Mirren) wishes and keeping it to provide for his family after he’s gone. This is all presented through the eyes of his young, virginal rookie secretary (McAvoy) for some reason.
If this was as long as War and Peace, I would have voluntarily castrated myself. And, to give credit where it’s due, you can’t go too far wrong with a cast consisting of Mirren, Plummer, McAvoy, and Paul Giamatti. In particular, Christopher Plummer can’t not give a good performance, it appears, and it helped me to see that he often looked as exasperated at the shrill nonsense surrounding him as I was.
I feel ya, Chris.
Leo Tolstoy had a lot of high-minded ideals that would culminate in the formation of a commune of forward-thinking pacifists late in his life. To writer/director Michael Hoffman, that means hippies. Sure, they’re celibate, but don’t tell Kerry Condon, Virgin Slayer that. In the end, he looks at all of the complexity of Tolstoy and his ideas and shits out a boring Nicholas Sparks movie with Tolstoy relegated to background color for much of its runtime. Both this “romance” and Tolstoy’s complicated relationship with his wife are boiled down to the same tedious heart vs. mind pap you’ll find in 75% of Hallmark cards.
The dashing McAvoy overcompensates for this ill-suited role by playing his character as a starry-eyed milquetoast with the clumsiness of Mr. Bean. It’s two registers too high for what’s supposed to be a prestige drama, but he’s got nothing on Mirren, who’s about 115 too high. How this shrill, ridiculously overdramatic performance got an Oscar nomination is beyond me. And yeah, I know she was written that way purposefully, but so was Jill from Jack and Jill.
Where’s my statue, huh?
The Last Station is a broad, mild, “edgy” in that “old people sex is funny” way, typically ambitionless Brit comedy… until it isn’t. When it gets all super-serious, it’s hard to give much of a shit, but damn if Plummer doesn’t almost make you. Almost.
Hoffman’s direction is slick, but pedestrian. Yep, we get exposition via text dumping to begin and end the film, the soundtrack is full of overused and ill-fitting classical cuts, and there’s even some laughably gratuitous slow motion for good measure.