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With Jim Sabatini

The Best Offer

The Best Offer
Geoffrey Rush, Donald Sutherland, Jim Sturgess and Sylvia Hoeks

Rated: R for some sexuality and graphic nudity.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: January 1, 2014 Released by: IFC Films

An art-world romantically bent thriller featuring the usually reliable Geoffrey Rush as an emotionally hermetic high-end antiques and auctioneer fails to exude as much authenticity as it stretches believability in Giuseppe Tornatore's first English-language picture.

The Best Offer, also starring Donald Sutherland, Jim Sturgess, and Sylvia Hoeks, is filled with metaphorical touches, as well as manipulative ones, in too much of a heavy-handed way to relate dramatic inconsistencies with more absurdity than a fascination into authenticity and identifying falseness.

To its credit, there is quite the decor when it comes to highlighting an indeterminate European City with lush architecture and historic villas in contemporary cul-de-sacs. So, Fabio Zamarion's lensing and Maurazio Sabatini's designs in what was filmed primarily in Italy and Prague allows access to an oddly sophisticated Virgil Oldman (Rush, who has the most believable arc) who life is woken up by a mysterious young heiress, Claire (Dutch actress Hoeks who doesn't reveal much from a sheltered beauty).

An opulent Oldman (who has quite a glove collection because of what outside germs represent to him) has invested his life into a secret, through-the-ages collection of pulchritudinous female paintings into his own gallery through his knack of imperious precision (his assistant played by Dermot Crowley puts up with his officiousness). Tornatore's tale, which may call to mind Hugo and The Da Vinci Code at times, involves an astronomical clock and trying to reformulate a priceless automaton from parts behind a mural in Claire's villa as the voyeuristic prestige upscale man hides behind a nearby statue to get a glimpse of a longtime agoraphobic for the first time.

An off-kilter drama that tries to invest poignancy into the relationship between Virgil and nubile beauty Claire with some obligatory flashbacks eventually churns in machinelike fashion with a mathematically inclined dwarf (Kurina Stamell) a linchpin for some needed clarity. Sutherland doesn't have the charm of his malevolent presence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as mischievous, proxy art colleague Billy Whistler and Sturgess as technically savvy Robert is more of a narrative pawn to help in not only the automaton's repair but in Virgil's solitary life as parts of this rebuilding appear to begin in the younger man's workshop.

Some may find the "turbulent" turns in The Best Offer that lead to a generally positive conclusion a little beguiling like Rush's way with the character who is asked at one point for relational advice. In this evaluation of a deceased family's artifacts as affecting individuality exposes the machinations of what could have been more psychologically rich than a sumptuously made but uneven genre hybrid.

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The Best Offer        C                     C 

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