The Best Offer
3.5/5   La Migliore Offerta
dir-scr Giuseppe Tornatore
prd Isabella Cocuzza, Arturo Paglia
with Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, Donald Sutherland, Philip Jackson, Dermot Crowley, Kiruna Stamell, Liya Kebede, John Benfield, Caterina Capodilista, Gen Seto, Klaus Tauber
release It 1.Jan.13, US 1.Jan.14
13/Italy Warners 2h11
The Best Offer
Pretty as a picture: Hoeks and Rush

sturgess sutherland tornatore
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Best Offer A strong sense of intrigue draws us into this beautifully made film, gripping us at the start as we try to guess which direction the story is heading. Delicately detailed performances and sure-handed filmmaking build plenty of suspense even if the story's conclusion is weakened by a nagging sense of inevitability.

In an unnamed Old World city, Virgil (Rush) is a top art auctioneer who enjoys the high life but rejects modern gadgets like mobile phones. He works with scruffy cohort Billy (Sutherland) to buy undiscovered gems for his secret collection of female portraits. And he gets increasingly irritated by the elusive young Claire (Hoeks), who is looking for help evaluating her rambling houseful of antiques. As he explores the estate, Virgil discovers bits and pieces that his assistant Robert (Sturgess) assembles into an automaton. But luring Claire out of hiding is Virgil's real task.

Since the film unfolds like a mystery thriller, we figure out what the other shoe has to be long before the script reveals it. But the cat and mouse game between the germ-phobic Virgil and secretive Claire holds our interest, even if we recoil at the thought that their interaction seems to be heading into romance. Still, it's entertaining to watch as the situation so deeply upends Virgil's staid life, inspiring him to stop dyeing his hair, open up to others and even get a mobile.

The movie is anchored by a terrific performance from Rush, who lets us glimpse intriguing layers of humour and emotion under the surface of this prickly perfectionist. Opposite him, Hoeks is alluring and insinuating, helping us understand why she so captivates Virgil's imagination that he's willing to let down his guard. Meanwhile, Sturgess and Sutherland add a spark of wit and even more suggestive subtext to their scenes.

All of this plays out under Tornatore's watchful, luxuriant eye, with Fabio Zamarion's artful wide-screen cinematography and yet another evocative Ennio Morricone score. Deliberate pacing draws us into the enigmatic plot, making a lot more of auctions and antiques than we'd think possible. But as the tense and complex final act develops, we are always one step ahead of the screenplay's twists and turns. And it's more than a little frustrating that the unsurprising conclusion leaves us feeling cold.

cert 12 themes, language, sexuality 3.Jan.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall