THE CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION Exactly like all those other Final Destination movies!

MERCHANT IVORY'S James Ivory has characterized The City of Your Final Destination as "the first of our films in which some of the cast mostly wear T-shirts." But despite its contemporary setting, City is still steeped in the rarified, What-Would-Henry-James-Do sensibility for which the production company is known.

The first Merchant Ivory film made sans Ismail Merchant—the producer died in 2005—City is about a college professor, Omar (Omar Metwally), who travels to the home of a deceased writer in hopes of obtaining permission from the family to write an authorized biography.

The family—a brother, a wife, a mistress—are German ex-pats living on a Uruguayan estate, sophisticated and indolent, with a privileged languor that gives the film a familiar period piece sheen, the occasional T-shirt notwithstanding.

The film's only real stakes involve Omar's relationship with his bitchy girlfriend, and his attempt to further his career by publishing the biography. The plot moves quickly, but nothing resonates. Character development is unearned. Good actors are wasted—Laura Linney does her best, but Charlotte Gainsbourg just gives up, slumping into wan frailty. Omar falls off a ladder. Anthony Hopkins is a secret jewel smuggler. The score swells. The glamour's too dusty, and it's impossible to care about any of it.