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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad46.15%
Total Crap: 7.69%

2 reviews, 1 rating

Last Station, The
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by William Goss

"Tolstoy Vey"
3 stars

I know that it’s only coincidence that 'Me and Orson Welles' and 'The Last Station' have been granted theatrical releases within months of one another, but both hold steadfast to that 'My Favorite Year' formula of having a scrappy young man mature after seeing their idols up-close and off-pedestal, and as had been the case with 'Welles', 'Station' has the period piece look down pat and is marginally charming in the end, though the end in particular is what really keeps the latter from taking a clear lead on the former.

It’s 1910, the last year in Tolstoy’s life, though (of course) nobody knows that yet. Valentin Bulgakov (played with a British accent by Scotland’s own James McAvoy) is commissioned by Vladimir Chertkov (played with a British accent by the American actor Paul Giamatti) to keep tabs on acclaimed author Leo Tolstoy (played with a British accent by Christopher Plummer of Canada) as Vlad tries to drum up support for his status as revolutionary, much to the chagrin of Tolstoy’s wife, Sofya (played with a British accent by England’s Helen Mirren). When Sofya asks Valentin to act similarly as confidant for her, he’s torn between his loyalty to Mrs. Tolstoy and Vladimir, and when he sees that Leo doesn’t always practice what he preaches (namely, celibacy), he finds himself as smitten with fellow follower Masha (Kerry Condon, not attempting a Russian accent either) as he is with the old coot himself.

(Sorry about that.)

It’s a set-up ready-made for romance and betrayal, neither of which writer/director Michael Hoffman (The Emperor’s Club) skimps on, and for a good stretch, the film is far lighter and more chucklesome than similar costume dramas, with the banter between Plummer and Mirren serving as its primary pleasure. Like McAvoy’s character, we’re just happy to be there as they exert all the external frustration that has plagued their marriage and private flirtation that has kept the spark alive over nearly fifty years. Giamatti literally twirls his mustache, and while he’s good at being a cause-minded bureaucrat, he’s better at being another excuse for the Tolstoys to launch into tirades. McAvoy does show convincing awe in their presence, and he even brings a bumbling charm all his own to Valentin’s romantic subplot.

It should come as no surprise, though, that Valentin and Masha do have a falling-out towards the end of the second act, and come the melodramatic third act, all eyes are on Leo and his failing health in the eponymous train station. At this point, the characters are revealed to be less developed than their performances, which is to say that watching a shrew and a sycophant wait it out as an unwitting idol takes his last breathes doesn’t hit as hard as it should.

It’s an odd, perhaps inevitable buzz kill on a period-dress party that no one expected. Let me assure that The Last Station does have its pleasures, but the lessons learned by young Valentin are nothing new to the discerning moviegoer. Once the train leaves the station, doing likewise might not be such a bad idea.

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originally posted: 02/27/10 11:57:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Starz Denver Film Festival For more in the 2009 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/20/16 Anne turned off the movie in an hour - tried so hard to find something to like in it... 1 stars
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  04-Dec-2009 (R)
  DVD: 22-Jun-2010


  DVD: 22-Jun-2010

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