THE BEST OFFER (LA MIGLIORE OFFERTA)Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, Donald Sutherland
Genre: Romance, Mystery
Run Time: 131 mins
Opens: 3 April 2014
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scene and Nudity)
The Best Offer is a film of a most vexing sort, constantly on the brink of developing into something truly delicious yet refusing to take on a satisfying form at every turn. It is a particularly handsome movie to admire, cinematographer Fabio Zamarion casting a refined eye on various fancy European locales while the exact location in which most of the story takes place is left deliberately ambiguous. Living legend Ennio Morricone provides an expectedly seductive musical score as well. Writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore, of Cinema Paradiso fame, plants the seeds of a compelling mystery, but while he wants to root The Best Offer in highbrow territory, it often veers into slight luridness. It is almost as if the film is a step away from full-blown giallo hijinks, though this certainly wasn’t Torantore’s intention.
Virgil Oldman fits the archetype of a snooty, stuffy wealthy gent who is particular about his tastes, knowledgeable about his chosen field and who eats off plates and drinks out of champagne flutes monogrammed with his initials. Of course, he’s very lonely and inexperienced in the ways of romance. This reviewer found it difficult to get invested in Virgil’s relationship with Claire, whom Hoeks portrays as a fragile, troubled damsel, the self-imprisoned princess waiting for a knight to free her. There’s an element of leery voyeurism in Virgil trying to catch a glimpse of Claire, which makes his pursuit of this much younger woman all the more unsettling (note the unsubtle surname “Oldman”). Still, Rush is a commanding presence who gamely fleshes out the foibles written for his character.
Sturgess’ role is probably analogous to that of the geeky tech expert/comic relief in a conventional blockbuster, Robert helping to piece together the mechanical doodads Virgil discovers in Claire’s home. In addition, he coaches Virgil in the art of getting the girl, the young man becoming a mentor to the older one, and Sturgess is sufficiently charming. Donald Sutherland seems to have shot his part in his off-time from the Hunger Games films, still sporting President Snow’s mane and beard. As Billy Whistler, he’s meant to serve as a less cultured counterpoint to Virgil and to highlight Virgil’s dishonesty, seeing as Billy is there to help him “save” the best pieces for himself. Sutherland is well-cast in the part, even if it’s a relatively minor one.
Summary: While elegant and initially beguiling, The Best Offer is also cold, stilted and not fully-formed. This reviewer is not quite sold.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars