Mick Davis manages somehow to transcend a minefield of genre clichés with this sympathetic portrait of the doomed genius artist Modigliani. First, there are the overexposed Parisian postcard moments: lovers caught in silhouette along a cobblestone road, a flowing dress and a fedora hat tilted purposefully to the side. Then there's the buzzing bohemian chatter of 1920s café culture, where the likes of Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera and Modigliani himself traded barbs and inspirations interchangeably. And finally there's the most depressing cliché of all: the alcoholic artist who, despite all the talent in the world, just can't keep it together. These are dicey ingredients at the best of times and combined with Andy Garcia's uneven accent and tendency toward theatrical-style overacting (as Modigliani), the first quarter of the film squeaks by mostly on the merits of its extravagant set decoration. For once it's the romantic subplot that takes the story past its clichés, putting a human face on the suffering caused by the artist's relentless self-destruction. Towards the end of his life Modigliani met Jeanne Hebuterne (played here by Elsa Zylberstein). Their unpopular romance (he was Jewish, she was not) produced a child and much misery, and Hebuterne eventually followed Modigliani to the grave. As the primary witness to Modigliani's downfall, Zylberstein's performance finds solid ground between the character's acute helplessness, innate strength and independence that allows her to defy her father and shack up with a penniless Jew. The story's lighter moments, and there are many, mostly hinge on the celebrity of the era's more prominent figures: Frida Kahlo, William Randolf Hearst and Auguste Renoir all make brief appearances. These "cameos" serve mostly to underscore the fact that Modigliani's work was well-regarded in high circles, but there aren't any broader insights offered as to how their work might have influenced the story's central artist. This is a biopic that's more concerned with how the world saw the artist than how the artist saw the world. This is its major flaw, but it's a competent and well-acted retelling of a poignant life lived, and that alone is enough to carry it through. (Lucky 7)