Monday, December 09, 2013

“The Best Offer” – Movie Review



This weekend in my movie class, we saw a bonus screening of the new crime drama, “The Best Offer”, starring Geoffrey Rush and Donald Sutherland.


When a successful art auctioneer is commissioned by a mysterious young woman to appraise and sell her late parents’ art collection, he becomes drawn into a relationship with her – but what impact will this have on him both professionally and personally?


Virgil Oldman (Rush) is about as quirky as they come – he’s a vain older gentlemen who dies his hair, maintains an extensive wardrobe and is so mysophobic that he constantly wears gloves to avoid possible infection. Further adding to his quirks are that he doesn’t own a cell phone and also that he remains a virgin to this day. Despite all of this, Virgil has worked hard to become a noted art expert who runs his own auction house and has accumulated great fame and wealth over the years … as well as his own rather impressive and extensive art collection which consists of portraits of various women.

One day, Virgil is contacted by Claire (Sylvia Hoeks), who wants to engage him to appraise her late parents’ art collection so that it may be sold to collectors at his auction house. After much consternation on the part of Virgil following her erratic behavior that causes her to miss scheduled appointments, he tells Claire that he no longer wishes to be bothered; it is at this point she confesses to suffering from agoraphobia, which explains why she does not go out in public. Reluctantly, Virgil reconsiders and decides to check out the paintings and sculptures. While there, he notices a bunch of interesting looking gears which he brings to Robert (Jim Sturgess), a repairman who specializes in antiques; Robert surmises that these gears are part of an automaton from the 1800’s, which he is confident he can rebuild, provided Virgil supply him with most of the original parts.

In the meantime, Virgil conducts business as usual, holding auctions where he conspires with his friend and fellow art enthusiast Billy (Sutherland) – a once-aspiring artist himself – to wind up with the winning bid on many of the items for sale. Virgil finds himself becoming increasingly obsessed with Claire, especially given their meetings are held at her parents’ expansive villa, where Claire remains locked in a closet so Virgil cannot see what she looks like. Knowing what a womanizer Robert is, Virgil enlists his advice for how best to deal with her. Eventually, Virgil is able to coax Claire out of her hiding place and they begin to have some semblance of a normal relationship – but once Claire enters his life, will this cause Virgil to lose his friends and business colleagues?


While I would normally recommend almost any movie starring Geoffrey Rush, I have to give “The Best Offer” a borderline recommendation, despite Rush’s good performance as The 50 Year Old Virgin. The reason has to do with the final act is a bit confusing and somewhat contrived. If indeed “The Best Offer” is a tale of revenge by a bitter and angry person, I would suggest the majority of the film is a rather elaborate setup which culminates in an underwhelming resolution. Billy does not have enough screen time or character development to get viewers to understand his degree of involvement in this story of vengeance. Further, it’s a bit misleading as to the intent of the story – in its two hours, there don’t seem to be enough clues earlier to logically lead us to the ending.

Another theme is that of fraud; just as Virgil is able to easily identify a forged artwork, he is equally unable to identify authenticity in real life – especially when it comes from the people closest to him. While Virgil comes across as an oddball, is his behavior so reprehensible that he deserves to be treated as he does? Is the audience supposed to root for or against him? The eventual payoff with the subplot regarding Robert attempting to rebuild the automaton was almost enough to make me wince – the payoff may not have been worth its setup and Robert’s character is merely an added dramatic conceit.

The first two-thirds of the movie are quite enjoyable to watch – which at least in part accounts for why I am giving this a borderline recommendation. Giuseppe Tornatore’s script is adroitly crafted and he photographs many of the artistic settings so beautifully – but it all seems to fall apart in the end when things take something of an abrupt turn. In particular this is so because upon reflection, many of the earlier scenes don’t supply enough clues or sufficient motivation. Ultimately, there’s so much in “The Best Offer” that doesn’t really add up.  I can only recommend it to people who might be entertained by  unraveling a puzzle that is eventually nothing more than confounding and frustrating.


The Best Offer (2013) on IMDb 7.8/1014,923 votes


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