the screaming skull (alex nicol, 1958)
rob sheffield, dreaming the beatles

the best offer (giuseppe tornatore, 2013)

I try to avoid spoilers, and sometimes I am very successful. I had no idea what The Best Offer was about. I knew it had Geoffrey Rush, and I knew it was directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, who also made a film I liked OK, Cinema Paradiso, won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. I didn’t know the plot. I didn’t even know what language it was in.

I mention this because the biggest problem with The Best Offer is its almost complete lack of originality. It harkens back as far as The Blue Angel (1930), through the film noir years, all the way up to 2013. The story of an aging man falling for a young, beautiful, and mysterious woman has been told many times, and for The Best Offer to stand out, it needs to either do the same old thing in an excellent manner, or to present a twist or two to keep our attention. It does neither.

And yet the truth is, I barely noticed these things until I was well into the film, and I suspect this was because I came to it cold. I wasn’t thinking, “This better be as good as The Blue Angel”, because I was barely thinking anything at all. I took the movie at face value, and maybe that’s the best way to approach any work of art.

But gradually, I saw the film settling into the patterns of a dozen movies from the past, and the experience of watching became rather empty. If I’d known more about the film in advance, I might have seen the emptiness much sooner, but I was intrigued ... until I wasn’t.

It looks luscious, and Rush is good enough to make the silly plot believable. Donald Sutherland wiggles his eyebrows occasionally. Sylvia Hoeks didn’t do much for me as the young apple of Rush’s eye. For all of the attempts at mystery, ultimately I didn’t think it was mysterious at all, other than the fact that nothing makes sense.

Ennio Morricone did the music, if you’re a completist when it comes to his work. And there is nothing awful about The Best Offer, if you want to while away 131 minutes. But I’m going with 6/10.

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