Be patient. Sit still. Keep working. Keep your coat on, shirt buttoned to the top, tie in place, even in the sweltering heat.
Eventually, if you’re lucky, you’ll make something magical, something artful. Or maybe you won’t. The process is frustrating and often ends badly.
“Final Portrait” is about a young man named James Lord (Armie Hammer), who dutifully sits for a portrait by experienced artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush). What Lord thought might take a day, turns into two weeks or more. It’s an endurance test, as Giacometti just can’t decide when the portrait is finished. The question is: will Lord decide for him?
Directed well by actor and director Stanley Tucci (see his wonderful “Big Night”), “Final Portrait” can try viewer patience. And that is exactly the point. Rush and Hammer are excellent, and Tucci collaborator, and charmer Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) appears in a significant role.
What works about Tucci’s film is that it borrows from a tiny actual event that allegedly took place in the 1960s and explores the creative process in a meaningful way. Tucci, who also writes here, makes maximum use of Rush’s crusty persona. He is very credible in the role of the famous artist, who lives life by his own set of rules. And the straight man is Hammer, who as Lord, uses his relative youth to exude transition spurred on by experience. One of those experiences is sitting for Giacometti. Hammer plays Lord calmly not overshadowing Rush, rather complementing him as it may have happened in real life.
A microcosm, encapsulating in miniature the characteristics of the artist process, “Final Portrait” is as frustrating to watch as it is important to experience.