Monday, January 25, 2010

"The Last Station" and Other Thoughts

I was asked to do a screener a month or so ago of "The Last Station," a movie I'd heard no hype about, and now that it's released, haven't since.

I did some perfunctory poking around the Interwebs about it after I'd agreed to go, and once I saw "a period piece" on some bloggle, I looked no further. Perhaps it's my uncultured sensibilities, but I generally hate period pieces about anything. Give me Spartans? I give you yawns. Big bouffant hair, or corsetted ladies? Count me out.

So, I wasn't looking forward to it.

Little did I know that it was going to be one of my favorite movies of recent memory. (My movie memory is rebooted rather often.)

If I'd read a little further and hadn't let my flippant brain get the best of me, I'd have seen "The Last Station" is about Tolstoy, one of the old Grice's favorite writers of all time. And, it stars Helen Mirren (as Tolstoy's wife, Sofya), and Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy himself.

My pulse quickens just writing that.

Sure, Paul Giamatti's there, too, as his usual surly, somewhat-deranged self, playing Vladimir Chertkhov -- the zealous disciple of Tolstoy. And, James McAvoy (as Valentin, Tolstoy's new ... assistant), a young man I hadn't come around to as an actor warranting my love until this film (I didn't like "Atonement," and I didn't think he was of action-hero stardom-worth in "Wanted," though that was one of my favorite Bad Movies of 2008).

Tolstoy's dying, and he knows it. He has, perhaps, around a year to live and his legacy is to be determined by some vying factions: his wife, who thinks that his life's work needs to be kept proprietary, in the hands of his family; and, Chertkhov, who is so disturbingly adamant that old T's work be offered to the Russian people like an open source file.

There's a parallel story going on the entire time via Valentin and his nascent love for Masha (Kerry Condon), this gorgeous teacher at the Tolstoy estate (think: a self-sustaining commune in the middle of the woods who've taken Tolstoyan theory to heart/life) who's trying to break Valentin's vow to remain celibate.

It was heart-breaking, passionate, so, so well-acted and well-done. I walked away blown away. And, oh, the music. Great.

I know not a lot of folks will see this movie, mostly because they'll brush it off in some flip way as I first did.

But that's a shame.

Please watch the trailer, and know that I wanted to hate it. "The Last Station":


Paramendra Bhagat said...

I read Tolstoy's War And Peace my Class 9 year. That is all I did the entire Dashain vacation.

Morgan said...

I read W&P my junior year, alongside some Dostoevsky ... it was one of my worst classes ever taken, but the reading list made me Me. I love all of their dire outlooks on life -- it's blissful.