Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: The Best Offer (Guiseppe Tornatore, 2013)

The Best Offer, the latest feature from Academy Award-winning director Guiseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso), is a classy and atmospheric thriller with many haunting Hitchcock-esque qualities. Immaculately scored and photographed with room for artistic indulgence that layers the production with great beauty, the cogs in the screenplay barely miss a beat. It is a fascinating character study and a sophisticated and engrossing mystery brimming with passion and romantic intrigue and high-culture deception. I sat down knowing nothing about the film and within minutes I was captivated.

Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush, outstanding and amongst his career-best for me) is a cultured, eccentric and solitary man whose reluctance to engage with women is matched only by the obsessive nature with which he practices as the managing director of a leading auction house and as an evaluator of high-end art and antiques. When the neurotic and short-tempered Virgil receives a call from a mysterious young heiress named Claire Ibbotson (Dutch youngster Sylvia Hoeks), a request to evaluate the paintings and antiques cluttering her sprawling villa, he finds his strict rules aren’t adhered to. Much to his frustration Claire at first refuses to meet him in person, but later reveals that she must remain locked away because of a long-suffering illness. Virgil becomes doubly fascinated by what he finds in the house – including an 18th Century talking automaton that he enlists his friend Robert (a charming Jim Sturgess), a mechanical genius, to assemble and repair – but also the identity of Claire, a woman who may for the first time have captured his heart.

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