Film Reviews

The Best Offer Has Some Quasi-Gothic Charm

Audaciously overcooked in its fussy grandeur and telegraphed plot twists, Cinema Paradiso writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore's obsessive-quest drama strains toward being a thriller under Ennio Morricone's strident score. Geoffrey Rush is on the money as hoity-toity art auctioneer Virgil Oldman, whose auction-block witticisms and Sherlock-worthy ability to deduce centuries-old forgeries impress by day, while his nights are spent alone with a valuable collection of female portraits in oil from within his digitally locked panic room. A germaphobic, OCD-addled loner uncomfortable around women, Virgil numbers as his closest acquaintances a secret plant in his own auctions (Donald Sutherland) and a local mechanical-engineering guru (Jim Sturgess) who's helping him rebuild an archaic automaton. The call to adventure comes in accepting an offer to make an estate evaluation for an agoraphobic heiress (Sylvia Hoeks) who never leaves her ivory tower. What might seem like the setup to an art-world flimflam is distracted by some May-December romantic intrigue between the stuffy sexagenarian and the mysterious shut-in (warning: There is a sex scene). That quickly devolves into a sick codependency with little forethought into its psychological or moral implications. Vertigo this ain't, but there's some quasi-gothic charm in the baroque premise and eccentric marginal details, including a mathematically gifted dwarf.
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Aaron Hillis is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group. VMG publications include Denver Westword, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, Dallas Observer, Houston Press and New Times Broward-Palm Beach.