The City of Your Final Destination
Opulent Ruins: Despite being set in a sprawling jungle estate, James Ivory’s The City of Your Final Destination is nowhere to visit.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
With three-time Oscar nominated director James Ivory (A Room With a View, Howards End) at the helm, The City of Your Final Destination can also boast of a powerhouse cast marked by the presence of Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins and the always reliable actress Laura Linney. Furthermore, a plot involving a young academic’s attempts to write about an author who plumbed his own family history for material that recalls both Gabriel Garcia Marquez and William Faulkner before extinguishing himself a la Hemingway, shows much potential initially.
Alas, The City of Your Final Destination falls far short of the expected promise of its pedigreed parts. In Ivory’s first production since the 2005 death of his collaborator Ismail Merchant, he follows the academic Omar Razaghi (a bland Omar Metwally) as he travels to an ornate estate carved out of the Uruguayan jungle in an attempt to persuade the family of deceased writer Jules Gund for permission to write a biography about the one-time literary phenomenon.
Upon arriving, Omar discovers Gund’s doe-eyed mistress Arden Langdon (Charlotte Gainsbourg), Gund’s gay brother Adam (Hopkins) and Gund’s cold, buttoned-up wife Caroline (Laura Linney) holed up in the sprawling, manicured jungle compound.
As Omar half-heartedly attempts to secure a green light for his project, he assures the family that he will be “very discreet” and “absolutely respect your wishes as to what to reveal.” At times, the family seems to consider his proposal on the basis of his good looks.
With a mind that seems more like that of a 10-year-old boy’s than an academic in graduate school, Omar lets Arden make sandwiches for him and wanders around the estate with a dazed smile on his face. He even suffers a boyish accident after being stung by some bees.
Some of the film’s modest pleasures come from watching Hopkins and, especially, Linney fully inhabit their characters. Linney clearly relishes her role as the estate’s resident ice queen. Unfortunately, when Metwally is in a scene with either Hopkins or Linney, it just further illustrates how far out of his league he is in The City of Your Final Destination.
Thankfully, with its shots of old-world luxury at the Uruguayan estate and its many images of characters reflected in antique mirrors, the film is a pleasure to look at. But as The City of Your Final Destination enters its final act, it collapses into mush as Omar comes to realize his true desires.
Having been in distribution limbo for three years since it was completed, it’s a testament to The City of Your Final Destination’s assembled talent that this flawed film’s current destination is on the screens of art house theaters rather than heading straight to DVD.