Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DVD--The Last Station

or: War and Peace in marriage.

One word to sum it up: Dramatic.

Helen Mirren. How do I explain Helen Mirren? In 2006, she won an Oscar for her amazing performance in The Queen. Upon it's release, Hollywood started realizing that she was one of hottest people around...even though she was around 60 years old. Earlier this year, she got thrown into the Oscar race again for a small film called The Last Station, which was a British period film about the final year of writer Leo Tolstoy. If it wasn't for Dame Helen Mirren, I probably would have passed this on.

After almost fifty years of marriage, Sofya (Helen Mirren) – Leo Tolstoy's (Christopher Plummer) devoted wife, lover, muse and secretary – suddenly finds her world turned upside down. In the name of his newly created religion, the novelist has renounced his noble title, his property and even his family (including their 13 children) in favour of poverty, vegetarianism and celibacy. Sofya also discovers that Tolstoy's trusted disciple, Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) may have convinced her husband to change his will, leaving the rights to his iconic novels to the Russian people rather than his own family. Consumed by righteous outrage, Sofya fights fiercely for what she believes is rightfully hers. Into this minefield wanders Tolstoy's worshipful new assistant, the gullible Valentin (James McAvoy), who quickly becomes a pawn – first of the scheming Chertkov and then of the wounded, vengeful Sofya.

As promised, Helen Mirren delivers and makes this movie what it is. However, it's cast of brilliant British actors provide valuable support to her tour de force performance. Christopher Plummer has clearly studied his role of Leo Tolstoy, deserving his Oscar nomination for best supporting actor (though not quite as good as Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds). James McAvoy, who we haven't been seeing much of lately, gives a heartfelt yet very comedic performance, fitting for a young actor performing against such experienced stars like Mirren and Plummer. His wife, the lovely Anne-Marie Duff, last seen in Nowhere Boy, makes an appearance as the ungrateful daughter. She is definitely onto big things. Kerry Condon serves as a luminous love interest for McAvoy and their chemistry lights up the movie.

While it's premise sounds a little dramatic, The Last Station has some fine comedic moments which hels lighten the mood. Mirren and Plummer are a lovely married couple who have fair share of disagreements, making for a hilarious battle of the sexes reminiscent of early screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby. It isn't a stuffy period piece, or the kind of historical drama you would expect. Instead, it's a charming romance story and a pretty funny movie. Even though the constant yelling and arguements get to be a bit tiresome, the performances got me through and I really enjoyed The Last Station. This is the perfect movie for a Saturday night in with a box of chocolates.

THE VERDICT: An enjoyable romp and comedic battle of the sexes, led by amazing performances from Oscar nominated Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer.


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