The Last Station [Blu-Ray] Michael Hoffman

The Last Station [Blu-Ray] Michael Hoffman
From what I can tell, the dominant perception of a "powerful" or "great" performance has something to do with screeching, over-the-top, self-indulgent histrionics with a flagrant disregard for fellow actors and the overall tone of the piece. There seems to be an assumption that if something stands out it must be good, and in that sense, all of the lead performances in The Last Station would be "powerful" and "great," save James McAvoy, who, unlike everyone else, is aware that he's on camera and not on stage. Incidentally, his character (Valentin Bulgakov) represents the idealism at the core of the film, walking into the world of a communist, hippie-dippy Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his capitalistic, realist wife Sofya (Helen Mirren) just as it starts to break apart. He also represents the hypocrisy present in communal ideals, refusing carnal and material wants, despite wanting to bone the comely and overly available Masha (Kerry Condon). And while his tale of maturation and dying ideals focuses the political edge of this biopic, the love story between Sofya and Leo acts as the centrepiece, with Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) interloping and manipulating an aged Leo. Many of Sofya's efforts to sway her husband (from the gentle manipulation of subordinates to climbing over balconies to spy on secret meetings) stand out due to Helen Mirren's wildly emotional portrayal of a woman losing control, even if it doesn't fit with the rest of the film. In fact, everyone seems to be on his or her own page, with Giamatti being the most grating, sneering and cackling like Gargamel or a Bond villain. If director Michael Hoffman had a little more control over his actors, this pretentious and disparate mess might have felt more cohesive. As it is, it's little more than a nicely filmed and costumed failure. The Blu-Ray includes some deleted scenes, a commentary track with Hoffman and another with Mirren and Plummer. Hoffman's is by far more informative, contextually, while the latter Oscar nominees discuss the Russian film version of War & Peace when not giggling about how Sofya's suicide attempt was filmed. This slightly inappropriate sense of humour is also evident in the blooper reel, wherein Mirren drops the "C" bomb on Plummer, who smirks and looks at the camera. (Sony)