Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Best Offer

Year: 2013
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, Donald Sutherland

Plot: An auctioneer becomes increasingly obsessed with a reclusive woman who has hired him to help sell her parents' valuables.

Review: I'm not a fan nor expert of Italian cinema, so I'll judge this based on how I see it. Despite the fact that the main cast is made up of non-Italian actors, the film is mostly Italian as far as the crew and settings are concerned.

Geoffrey Rush stars as Virgil Oldman, an auctioneer who runs a well-to-do auction house while occasionally acquiring valuable art during auctions with the help of his friend, Billy. One day he gets hired by Claire Ibbetson, a reclusive woman who wants to sell her parents' property at her villa. To his chagrin, she refuses to meet him in person repeatedly to do business, until he realises later that she is agoraphobic and has never met anyone beyond her room door in years. His curiosity for her turns to concern and eventually much more than that. Simultaneously, he discovers mechanical parts strewn around her villa which he turns over to Robert, a tinkerer who believes the parts are from the first automaton made centuries ago.

This film has all the elements of European cinema; simple, elegant, mostly quiet, more focus on words than actions etc. To director Giuseppe Tornatore's credit, the film runs at a brisk pace despite its 131 minute runtime. Every scene and every conversation has its purpose, so there's close to no padding here, so to speak. Tornatore also wrote the script, and he successfully makes things interesting from beginning to end, even for those who have no interest in art or auctions.

Rush is brilliant as usual, playing the obsessive-compulsive Virgil who slowly but surely softens up and allows himself to explore a possible relationship with someone who is as difficult to approach as himself. At first he seems difficult to befriend, but you will eventually root for him as the story goes along. Jim Sturgess does a fine job as Robert, who gives Virgil advice on women, but you get the feeling there's more to him than he's letting on. Sylvia Hoeks plays the awkward, agoraphobic and easily agitated Claire with the right balance of being difficult and amiable, and you'll end up liking her too. Donald Sutherland is not too shabby as well playing Billy, Virgil's partner in crime, lending the character his old timer sensibilities.

Something happens towards the final act which you won't see coming, but even if you did, you'd feel some sense of surprise. This is ultimately the film's trump card and Tornatore's great writing and direction makes the journey to this point worthwhile indeed.

All in all, The Best Offer is a great film for those who are looking for something different from the loud offerings of Hollywood. I think it has made me want to find more of Tornatore's work. (8/10)

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