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Popcorn Preview: The Best Offer

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The Best Offer (2013) "La migliore offerta"
Cast includes: Goeffrey Rush (The King's Speech), Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas), Sylvia Hoeks (The Storm), Donald Sutherland (Pride & Prejudice), Philip Jackson (My Week with Marilyn), Kiya Kebede (Desert Flower)
Writer/Director: Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Maèna)
Genre: Drama | Mystery | Romance (131 minutes)

No one can fool Virgil Oldman. From a charred fragment, he can tell the portrait is a fake. Oldman is a master auctioneer... knowledgeable, meticulous and smooth. Mr. Oldman's personal appearance is fastidious... died hair, perfect suits... selected from a home display that resembles a high-end clothing store. He always wears gloves... "must be a rash of some kind" ... they guess wrong. On his birthday, his office is filled with gifts from admirers. If there are any mobile phones among the gifts... Oldman wants them thrown out... he absolutely won't have one. In the meantime, his assistant should have blocked the call from that strange woman... "I have no wish to waste your time," she says. Go on... "This isn't a charity help line." Claire Ibbetson talks about her parent's villa, the furniture, artwork, some rare pieces... "My father told me to entrust the sale only to Mr. Oldman."

The villa gates are locked and there's no buzzer... Oldman gets soaked waiting in the rain. (Could have used that mobile phone, alas...) He's done with Claire Ibbetson! "Twelve million one... twelve million two... [sneeze] Gesundheit. Was that a bid? Twelve million three..." The next auction goes well, indeed. Billy Whistler wins the Yanski portrait for twelve million seven... only to sell it to Oldman for double. "We've pulled off some sharp tricks over the years," says Billy. Oldman knows the painting is worth far more. Back home, behind the glove display, there's a secret door to a secret room... Oldman's portrait room. It's a spiritual experience for Virgil... sitting in the middle of the room, admiring portraits... his beautiful women. When Claire calls back, Mr. Oldman refuses to take the call, but she has a sob story... hit by car, unconscious in a pool of blood, etc. The next time Oldman goes to the villa, Claire's still not there, but he walks through. The "curious contraption" he notices on the floor simply goes into his pocket. At the repair shop, he asks Robert to guess about the cluster of old gears... obviously part of a much bigger contraption. On later visits, he comes across more parts... but still no Claire.

It's a painstaking process getting ready for Claire's auction because he also has to negotiate her phobias. In the process, Oldman finds more of those mysterious gears and begins confiding in Robert about his growing attraction to the illusive Claire. Even though The Best Offer is in English, it's an Italian film... a gorgeous journey through unnamed locations... a combination of many locations. The plot points aren't as sharply defined as in a Hollywood film, and that's partly what makes this one intriguing... if you're willing to go along with it. It never reaches a grand ah-ha conclusion, but instead, reaches several ah-ha moments. Geoffrey Rush as the supercilious auctioneer is perfect, and the other characters are excellent, too. While Virgil Oldman is a superstar in the art of selling valuables, he's amazingly naïve in the art of life. As it turns out, the only person he confides in is Robert, the clever young man who fixes things. Eventually, Oldman wonders if he's misjudged the situation. He remembers something Billy once said... "Everything can be faked." He wonders about human emotions. Can they be forged?

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
An illusive heiress presents a master auctioneer with his most challenging assignment

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: Mysterious heiress and master auctioneer
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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