Leaving almost nothing to one's imagination, it seems as if there's a heavy focus on getting the story told by having the characters talk excessively without much need of acting. With a few exceptions to a firmer screen presence of Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney, there is essentially nothing that stays you away from the much-feared territory of, well, cinematic boredom.
Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Cameron, the protagonist of The City of Your Final Destination is Omar Razaghi (Omar Metwally), an Iranian-born graduate student at the University of Colorado, whose financial aid for a fellowship is contingent on writing an authorized biography of the deceased Latin American author Jules Gund. Shortly into the first semester of the fellowship, Gund's estate unexpectedly denies Omar authorization. Omar's aggressively supportive girlfriend Deirdre urges him to travel to Uruguay and petition the executors to change their minds.
Omar follows this advice and is instantly received into a hornet's nest of intrigues and idiosyncrasies. The Gund "family", living together on the author's isolated and decaying estate, includes Gund's widow, Caroline (Laura Linney); his mistress, Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg); Arden's young daughter, Portia; Gund's brother, Adam (Anthony Hopkins), and Adam's partner, Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada). Omar's unnanounced arrival upsets their fragile co-existence and causes all to question their own circumstances and fates, which in turn leads Omar himself to question to what degree, if any, he has been the author of his own existence up until now.
James Ivory's Oscar nominated glory might seem a little distant from today's context, but his influences remain the same as what did during the 80's and 90's albeit with a few changes. What should have been a emotional film about romance and stirring thoughts and feelings, should have been just that.
But instead, a time-indulging stance has been adopted, possibly to mirror the countryside lifestyle as featured in most of this film. Consisting of mostly stagnant shots of the scenery and landscape as visual enticers by Javier Aguirresarobe (of Vicky Cristina Barcelona fame), I have to admit that some of these images do instill a sense of serenity that nature is known to have over us. This is further accentuated by the Latin music by Jorge Drexler.
In terms of atmospheric countryside rustic charm, this film scores well. But that is all there is to it, unfortunately.
Stillness in life also translates into stillness on the silver screen. Amidst such a backdrop, the characters actually go on a massive chatter mission and serve to spill every single line of the adequately well-written script by Ivory's long-time collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. It actually feels more like a theatrical play where powerful rendition of lines in dramatic exaggeration drives the narration. What the characters feel, they always have this weird tendency to speak them aloud.
Makes it feel like there isn't much work done to translate all the thoughts aloud written in the novel. they're simply translated literally into verbal lines.
As mentioned earlier on how this film instills a wonderful sense of peace, Ivory didn't take that advantage into play and deliver the romance that should have come from such film material. Instead, all we are treated to is the sarcastic dialogues tongued by the veterans Hopkins and Linney (who're very much the most memorable characters) that probably contributed towards the core highlights of this film.
Without any of the romance, without much substantial drama needed for the prior, all we are getting is some interesting dialogues amidst this great sense of being at ease.
Wait, or did I mistake boredom for serenity?