Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Best Offer is a visually stunning, simple tale set in Europe’s exclusive antiques and fine art world. Following renowned auctioneer Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) who’s obsessed with notions of validity, the film casts a weary eye over the elusive industry and its flaws while simultaneously negotiating an unusual love story. As original as the film is, however, it’s just too damn long. Add to that an awfully dramatic score by Italian orchestrator Ennio Morricone and you’ve something that might not take a commercial audience’s fancy.
Don’t get me wrong, though. There will be plenty of people appreciative of The Best Offer’s lamenting, string-heavy score and the script’s unmistakable Gothic tendencies (I couldn’t get Horace Walpole’s classic The Castle Of Otranto out of my head), but for a modern audience looking for a little more depth, some might find themselves searching for more. In the film’s defence, there is a decent twist bringing the narrative’s climax into fruition just like a well-placed musical crescendo. But it doesn’t happen until 100 minutes in. Yes, that’s one hour and 40 minutes.
And to be honest, the performances could have been better. Rush personifies Virgil’s genius proficiency with relative ease, but Sylvia Hoek’s character Claire lacks conviction. Claire is a mysterious, young, beautiful heiress who commissions Oldman to evaluate her recently deceased parents’ estate. But she suffers from agoraphobia, you see, and remains hidden in a secret room in her colossal villa. Hoek can screech well, but in Claire her Welsh-British-something accent grates. Also, the lovemaking scene between the two is slightly disturbing. The Best Offer is by no means a two-person story either. Donald Sutherland plays the part of Billy Whistler, Oldman’s creepy friend, well, but that only shines through right at the end.
The Best Offer is certainly worth a watch if only for the styling and exquisite cinematography. You’ll also enjoy it if you’re one for gawking over the richness of Europe’s cultural history.
BY JACK ARTHUR SMITH
The Best Offer opens in cinemas on Thursday August 29.