×

The City of Your Final Destination

The petty quarrels of the heirs of a Uruguayan novelist are the weak motor of this pic.

With:
With: Omar Metwally, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexandra Maria Lara, Norma Aleandro, Hiroyuki Sanada. (English, Spanish dialogue)

The petty quarrels of the heirs of a Uruguayan novelist are the weak motor of “The City of Your Final Destination,” helmer James Ivory’s first pic after the death of producing partner Ismail Merchant. Languid, multi-accented adaptation of the contempo novel by Peter Cameron suffers from an unfocused screenplay and direction, and won’t win Ivory any new fans despite a name cast that includes Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney. Pic’s most likely destination will be a high-end tube slot and bonus disc in the inevitable Merchant Ivory box set.

After Merchant’s death during the production of “The White Countess” in 2005, Ivory went on to film this project in 2006. The film had a special premiere in New York in late 2007 before falling off the radar until it turned up at the Berlin and Cannes markets this year.

Young Iranian-American academic Omar (Omar Metwally) receives a letter of refusal from the heirs of scribe Jules Gund. This puts Omar in an awkward position, as he had told his university he already had the go-ahead for an authorized biography on Gund.

Worried about his academic future and repeatedly nagged by his pushy g.f. (Alexandra Maria Lara, as the pic’s most one-note character), Omar travels to Ochos Rios, Gund’s estate in Uruguay, to convince the executors of the necessity of his work.

The motley crew he finds there includes Gund’s spurned wife, Caroline (Linney), and mistress, Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourgh), who live together with Arden and Jules’ daughter. Adam (Hopkins), the novelist’s older brother, lives nearby with his much younger Asian lover (Hiroyuki Sanada).

Things quickly start to look up as Omar is made to feel at home despite the heirs’ letter of refusal. The screenplay, by Ivory regular Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, then dutifully ticks off the one-on-one conversations Omar has with each heir to achieve his goal.

The subsequent procession of talking heads makes it difficult to piece together a coherent idea of the shared history of these disparate characters — especially because the novelist himself, who committed suicide, remains something of an enigma.

Thesps’ very different acting styles — Linney in frigid, acerbic mode; Ivory vet Hopkins as another benevolent, fatherly presence; Gainsbourg as the low-key younger gal with the come-hither voice — do not help. And, as in “Rendition,” Metwally is a largely passive participant.

Like Ivory’s last two contempo outings, “Le Divorce” and “Slaves of New York,” “The City of Your Final Destination” suffers from the lack of a clearly delineated code of conduct in which each faux pas raises a red flag, and thus raises the stakes. In today’s world, eccentric behavior is simply filed under the “live and let live” label, and because Jhabvala and Ivory remain committed to documenting social interactions in infinite detail, pic is reduced to a not unpleasant series of conversations with the occasional bon mot. But behind all the talking –unsurprising, as Cameron’s novel is also dialogue-heavy — there is no real sense of who any of these characters are.

Pic, filmed mostly in Argentina on what looks like a tight budget, was shot by Spanish d.p. Javier Aguirresarobe (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), whose lensing is impressive without being flashy. Other tech contributions are modest, which will disappoint fans looking for the impeccable packaging that is the one universal constant in Merchant Ivory films. Ironically, the score by Uruguayan composer Jorge Drexler (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) is probably the most generic contribution.

Images of Venice in the ’50s, shot by Ivory himself, are awkwardly inserted in an attempt to add some background on the Gund family. However, they make sense if the pic is, as reported, Ivory’s last feature, as the helmer’s first film was the 1957 docu short “Venice: Themes and Variations.”

Popular on Variety

The City of Your Final Destination

Production: A Hyde Park Intl. presentation of a Merchant Ivory Prods. production, in association with Goldcrest Features, Falkhan Entertainment Group. (International sales: Hyde Park Intl., Sherman Oaks, Calif.) Produced by Paul Bradley, Pierre Proner. Co-producer, Richard Hawley. Directed by James Ivory. Screenplay, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on the novel by Peter Cameron.

Crew: Camera (color), Javier Aguirresarobe; editor John David Allen; music, Jorge Drexler; art director, Andrew Sanders; costume designer, Carol Ramsey; sound (Dolby Digital), Robert Hein. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 19, 2009. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 114 MIN.

Cast: With: Omar Metwally, Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexandra Maria Lara, Norma Aleandro, Hiroyuki Sanada. (English, Spanish dialogue)

More Scene

  • US record producer The-Dream arrives for

    Top Music Publishers Come Together for Songs of Hope Honors

    The 15th annual Songs of Hope honors united songwriters, music industry insiders and more than a few preeminent doctors at producer Alex Da Kid’s Sherman Oaks compound on Thursday night. Jimmy Jam returned to host the event, which served as a fundraiser for the ever-vital City of Hope medical treatment center as well as a [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Keke Palmer BlogHer19 Summit

    Keke Palmer Brought to Tears Accepting Truth Teller Award at #BlogHer19 Creators Summit

    Keke Palmer stood surprised and wide-mouthed on the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit stage as she was presented with the Truth Teller Award for her recent acting work — and her viral “sorry to this man” clip. “This means so much,” the multi-hyphenated star softly whispered as she got teary-eyed upon accepting the award. Last week, the [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19:

    Emmys 2019: Inside All the Hottest Pre-Parties

    It’s (Emmys) party time! Before the 71st annual Emmys go live on Sunday, stars and execs are keeping busy by party-hopping in the days leading up to the big show. Here, Variety gives you the inside details on who was where and what they were doing. Keep checking back right here throughout the weekend for [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Green Dress

    Jennifer Lopez Closes Out Versace Show in Famous Green Grammys Dress

    Jennifer Lopez has found her way back into the Versace dress that broke the internet in 2000. The “Hustlers” star closed out Versace’s Spring 2020 show in a re-worked version of the revealing, bright green silk chiffon dress that she wore to the Grammy Awards 20 years ago. The dress quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon, [...]

  • 10 Storytellers to Watch

    Variety Celebrates Inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch Event

    Storytellers from across the spectrum of entertainment — film, literature, podcasting and play writing — were honored Thursday at Variety’s inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch luncheon at Gramercy Park Hotel, hosted with partner the Independent Filmmaker Project and presented by Audible. Honorees Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of “Friday Black”; “Limetown” podcasters Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie; [...]

  • Demi Moore Corporate Animals

    Demi Moore Teases Upcoming Memoir 'Inside Out,' Talks 'Corporate Animals' Team Bonding

    As Demi Moore gears up for the Sept. 24 release of her autobiography “Inside Out,” the actress says she feels like a weight has been lifted. “Even the stuff that I may have been nervous about is completely lifting…because it’s a process,” Moore told Variety at the premiere of her upcoming film “Corporate Animals” at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content