The Best Offer is a 2013 drama/romantic mystery, filmed in Italy, and written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (known for Cinema Paradiso, a brilliant, now classic film). Ennio Morricone, the composer who won this year’s Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Hateful Eight, composed the beautiful musical score. It is rated R for some sexuality and graphic nudity, and is in English. An artist friend of ours recommended the film to us, and I’m glad it was brought to my attention.
A thinking person’s movie, this is a subtle, romantic tale that will keep you wondering what is really going on. Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush, Academy Award Best Actor winner for Shine) is a successful and highly regarded managing director of an auction house, also serving as the auctioneer for high priced art and antiques from estates that sell to cultured and wealthy art lovers. With his friend Billy Whistler (Donald Sutherland) serving as buyer and silent partner, he amasses a fortune of hundreds of portraits of women, kept for himself in a vault at his home. For those of you who are knowledgeable of art, you will recognize some familiar faces amongst the many paintings in Virgil’s private vault.
Virgil keeps others aloof until he encounters Claire Ibbetson (Sylvia Hoeks), a woman who wants him to represent her deceased parents’ estate. She too has her own idiosyncrasies, an apparent agoraphobic who will not allow Virgil to see her as they go about agreeing on the details of the sale of an entire estate of furniture and art. Claire and Virgil slowly connect and open up to each other, despite their failings.
As Virgil goes about cataloguing the sizable estate, he frequents the shop of Robert (Jim Sturgess, whose credits include Across the Universe, and The Way Back). Some mechanical parts Virgil finds at the estate intrigue him, and he shows them to Robert, who delights in putting them together for him, piece by piece as each is delivered. The mechanical parts appear to belong to an automaton, the inclusion of which is the one thing about this film that I never quite thought fit in with the story.
As Virgil and Claire come out of their shells, for me a bit too easily, the storyteller pulls you along and you wonder what is really going on here? What mystery is unfolding that each subtle clue will lead you to solving? Is Virgil being taken? Who is really involved? Why is Claire hiding herself?
I was surprised as the mystery unraveled. Tornatore wrote an intriguing story and it was filmed and scored beautifully. At one point, Virgil makes a comment that the forger of a piece of art can’t resist putting in something of himself, even while striving to copy the master completely, and thus reveals something of his own authenticity. Everything can be faked, even emotions, by a good enough actor. But who amongst the players is not being their authentic self? Watch it and decide for yourself.