The January box office used to offer films that would not fare as well at other times of the year. However, moviegoers have proven that they will come out anytime for the right movie. This coming Monday brings Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first holiday weekend of 2010. Last year during the MLK holiday, the surprise hit Paul Blart: Mall Cop took in close to $40 million at the box office.
This year, while Denzel Washington [DWASH] is out to save the world in The Book of Eli [BOELI] and Jackie Chan [JCHAN] is battling bad guys in The Spy Next Door [SPYND], there is one little film which stands apart from all the others.
The Last Station [LSTTN] is a drama from Sony Pictures Classics starring Christopher Plummer [CPLUM], Helen Mirren [HMIRR], James McAvoy [JMCAV] and Paul Giamatti [PGIAM]. Written and directed by Michael Hoffman, the film covers the last days of Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s life. The aging author of ‘War and Peace’ was at a crossroads as he battled his loyalty to his family vs. being a man of Russia. Rejecting materialism, Tolstoy was caught between leaving his body of writings to Russia or to his wife and muse Sofya, played by Mirren.
Giamatti portrays Tolstoy’s trusted advisor Chertkov who hopes the writer will leave his writings to the motherland. Chertkov is also angling to be the chief executor of Tolstoy’s estate, leaving Sofya quite unhappy. These are the true events of Tolstoy’s life but Hoffman sets this film up around a fictional character.
McAvoy plays the fictional Valentin who is appointed by Chertkov to tail Tolstoy and report back to him of the writer’s actions. Valentin finds himself in an intimate relationship with another of Tolstoy’s followers, Masha. The passionate and explosive relationship between Tolstoy and Sofya is offset by the youthful awkwardness of Valentin and Masha. The young lovers are steeped in Tolstoy’s ideas while the writer himself is grappling with his own momentous decision.
The film also chronicles the circus that surrounded the writer’s death who fled his home due to the conflicts but died a few days later. Russian media camped outside of his compound wanting to know every last detail of his life. Based on the book by Jay Parini, The Last Station speculates much regarding the author’s final days and may not have mainstream appeal. However, Plummer’s and Mirren’s performances are garnering quite a buzz.
The fictional coming-of-age story centering on Valentin utilizes McAvoy’s gift of blending into the background while being the backbone of the story. For those who enjoyed McAvoy in The Last King of Scotland and the theme of Me and Orson Welles, check out this latest historical drama.
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