Filmmaker Michael Hoffman’s old-fashioned literary bio stars Christopher Plummer as aged Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, and Helen Mirren as his combative wife Sofya, battling the famed author over his estate planning. When Plummer and Mirren go into their spirited marital hysterics, time breezes by entertainingly. When James McAvoy (as a diffident Tolstoy acolyte) and Paul Giammati (as Tolstoy’s scheming chief disciple) are onscreen, time freezes solid. Director Hoffman’s screenplay, adapted from the novel by Jay Parini, opts for a straightforward account of Tolstoy’s last days. It may be a little too straight. Needs more whoopee-doo from McAvoy’s Valentin and his summertime girlfriend (Kerry Condon) to go with the Plummer-Mirren goblet smashing (112 min., 2009, rated R).
Director: Michael Hoffman
Writer: Michael Hoffman and Jay Parini
Producer: Bonnie Arnold, Chris Curling and Jens Meurer
Cast: James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti, Helen Mirren, Anne-Marie Duff, Kerry Condon, Patrick Kennedy, John Sessions, Tomas Spencer and David Masterson