It’s difficult to summarize The Best Offer because it’s impossible to see how the separate storylines are ever going to intersect. The film centers around Virgil (Geoffrey Rush; The King’s Speech), who is an art expert and auctioneer who appraises newly discovered pieces by famous artists, verifies their authenticity, and tells the owner how much they’re worth. Sometimes he misleads people so that he can buy the piece for his own collection, through the use of a friend at the auction (Donald Sutherland). In another storyline, Virgil becomes acquainted with a woman named Claire (Sylvia Hoeks), who is terrified to leave her house. Virgil becomes fascinated with her and ultimately falls in love with her the more she refuses to let him see her. In still a third storyline, Virgil employs the help of Rupert (Jim Sturgess; The Other Boleyn Girl) to help him assemble an old automaton he’s been tracking down the pieces to.
I think the most interesting thing about this film is that I didn’t know what genre it was in until the climactic scenes. This seemed to be a fairly straight forward drama, and character study of this lonely, aging, somewhat flawed art connoisseur as he’s coerced out of the boring routine of his daily life. However, the film takes some very interesting turns that change the scope of the entire film up until that point. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this aspect for fear of giving spoilers. I don’t even want to classify the film as a particular genre. What I will say is that it’s not a genre that’s done well very often, and The Best Offer is one of the best examples I can think of. A couple of other great ones would be… oh wait, I can’t tell you.
Geoffrey Rush’s performance is fantastic. Though, he usually is. I can only think of a handful of movies from the actor that I strongly dislike (Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and 4), but even there, Rush’s performance is exemplary. Virgil’s suave, sophisticated qualities juxtaposed with his crippling fear of aging, make for a very interesting character to track throughout this film.
We don’t get much of Sylvia Hoeks, but for what little screen time she has, she offers a slyly erotic and simultaneously meek performance. Like Virgil, she plays to the film’s themes of contradictions, as each character embodies traits that are diametrically opposed to each other. This makes them feel more like real people, and gives the film a wonderful realism for its entire runtime. It has to be said too that while Hoeks spends a lot of her time off screen, and all we hear is her voice, she does a great job of creating a presence for her character using only sound. It’s something I’m starting to appreciate more after seeing films like this and last year’s Her.
Donald Sutherland is not needed in this film. His character, Billy, is needed to establish Virgil’s darker side, but it seems like a waste to put an actor with such gravitas in that role. He does a great job, but unlike the principle characters, there’s nothing challenging or complicated about the role.
Finally, it has to be said that this is just a great looking film. The emphasis on art is captured perfectly with the set design and costuming. The automaton that Jim Sturgess’ character assembles throughout the film is utterly gorgeous in every way. It’s just a shame that this didn’t get a blu-ray release to allow audiences to fully appreciate the visual aspects.
The only special feature is a trailer for the film. Available on DVD from IFC Films on April 29.