By Matt Brunson
THE CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION
DIRECTED BY James Ivory
STARS Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney
Although billed as the latest Merchant-Ivory production, The City of Your Final Destination is actually director James Ivorys first feature without his longtime producer and film partner, the late Ismael Merchant. It's hardly an inspiring way to carry on the brand name.
Then again, the tony label hasn't exactly been producing topflight pictures since the glory days of Howards End and The Remains of the Day. This is yet one more disappointment, with Ivory's other frequent collaborator, scripter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, serving up a turgid adaptation of Peter Cameron's novel about a timid college professor who comes into contact with the eccentric members of an upper-class family isolating themselves in Uruguay. With a shove from his assertive girlfriend Deirdre (Alexandra Maria Lara), Omar (Omar Metwally) travels to South America to visit the family after they refuse to grant him permission to write a biography about one of their own, deceased author Jules Gund. Jules' brother Adam (Anthony Hopkins) actually has no objection, but the late writer's wife Caroline (Laura Linney) states that she will never agree to allow such a book to be penned. For her part, Jules' meek mistress Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg) initially sides with Caroline but switches her allegiance once she begins to fall for Omar. Things become even more knotty after Omar gets injured and Deidre arrives to be at his side.
Metwally's charisma-free performance turns the pivotal character of Omar into a dullard, which throws off every scene in which he's interacting with the other players. Not that the bigger names in the cast fare any better: Hopkins seems as disinterested in this project as he was with The Wolfman, while Linney's unwavering snappishness renders her one-note. Gainsbourg has her moments, but the only truly satisfying performance comes from Lara, although that's largely because her frank character is the only one to cut through the stale genteelness and show any signs of life.