The Last Station

Rated 3.0

The last days of the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy seem a sure-fire subject for a biopic, and when the cast features Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as his remarkable wife, the prestige factor looms even larger. Unfortunately, writer-director Michael Hoffman renders the whole thing forth as half-baked domestic drama with a simpering streak of canned historical romance running through it. Plummer and Mirren both have their moments, and the overall production is not without the requisite period-piece pleasures. The lumpy narrative scheme here gives a kind of centrality to a third character, the young writer Valentin Bulgakov (a coy James McAvoy), and makes his on-and-off romance with the feisty, unpredictable Masha (Kerry Condon) into a major but not particularly convincing thread of the story. The big emotional moments tend to ring increasingly hollow as this sprawling little tale plays itself out, and Hoffman’s script (adapted from a novel by Jay Parini) has everybody (including a leering Paul Giamatti as the scheming Vladimir Chertkov) talking in emotionally simplistic and transparently manipulative terms. Pageant Theatre. Rated R