The Best Offer
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 15th September 2013
Despite its English language script and Australian lead actor, The Best Offer has all the auspices of a foreign arthouse movie, making it a very attractive cinematic outing. It’s the pan-European landscape – set in an unspecified city but principally filmed across Italy – and the abundance of fine art and exquisite music which elevates a familiar plot and routinely “complex” characters to a nonetheless engrossing tale.
This distinctly cultured aesthetic comes courtesy of Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, who shot to fame with Cinema Paradiso 25 years ago. With music by the maestro Ennio Morricone, and architecture to die for, we are quickly swept into the very strange life of Geoffrey Rush’s fastidious art auctioneer, the reclusive Virgil Oldman.
Constantly gloved, even when dining in fine restaurants, Oldman’s private stash of fine art rivals that of Thomas Crown. His only friends seem to be the young cockney lad (a bright Jim Sturgess from One Day) who repairs technical instruments, and a white-mopped Donald Sutherland who assists Oldman in his auctioneering affairs.
When Oldman is called by an enigmatic young woman to provide a valuation of her fortune, he finds himself inveigled into a mystery of identity and motivation that turns his life upside down.
If that last line felt a bit clichéd, it’s because the plot itself isn’t quite as imaginative as the mechanics of its telling. Ironically, for a film about forgery and fakes, the end result is a sense that you’ve either missed something, or been had. But it was beautiful while it lasted.