La migliore offerta is the latest film of director Giuseppe Tornatore (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano, Malèna). Like most of his movies, it is hard to give it a straightforward assessment. The movie is not as good as Tornatore's masterpiece Nuovo Cinema Paradiso but it's better than some of his other films like Malena. It's a movie the European audience will most likely admire and at the same time it's hard to tell whether American spectators would appreciate it. There is definitely a lot to be appreciated in this film but there are also a few aspects that could have been done better (in my humble opinion, of course). This is a movie, which is hard to be reviewed properly without the threat of spoiling the moviegoer's experience so be warned of possible unwanted "hints".
La migliore offerta (The Best Offer) is about a famous and eccentric expert art auctioneer who runs into a great challenge in the face of much younger heiress Claire (Sylvia Hoeks) who is not less eccentric than him. She wants from the auctioneer Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) to assess her inherited art collection while simultaneously behaves in an inexplicable manner. Gradually, Oldman decides this mysterious girl is probably the woman of his life. Virgil's younger and more experienced with women friend Robert (Jim Sturgess) encourages him in the delicate affair while helping him to repair old pieces of odd machinery.
Giuseppe Tornatore tries to make an artistic film about art. The movie is shot in beautiful exterior locations while almost all of the inside shots are made among sculptures, luxurious furniture, precious paintings, etc. There are many parallels drawn between the world of art and the real life (especially love), both art and love being among the passions which most often lead to strange behavior and obsession. There are also a few of Tornatore's great lines about life in the vein of his Una pura formalità's "advice" that you should never meet your idols in person because they will most likely disappoint you.
The acting in The Best Offer is amongst its major assets. Geoffrey Rush shows a great performance as usual making easily believable all of the eccentricity, torment and obsession of his character. Jim Sturgess seems better a movie after a movie and Donald Sutherland in the role of Virgil Oldman's long-time friend despite not having a lot of screen time is quite important for the story. As for the women in the movie, it could be said that Kiruna Stamell episodic appearances as a midget girl in a bar are probably more mystic and interesting than Sylvia Hoeks in the leading part of the mysterious heiress but this could be actually done on purpose.
Speaking about the weaker aspects of the movie, the predictability is one of the main issues. You can guess almost from the very beginning the direction of the plot and at least 10 minutes in advance where it is heading towards the end. Another slightly bothering matter is that the story is not very likely to happen in reality but considering it's a movie, the narrative does not cross the line of complete implausibility. Finally, the last scenes (you will know which ones when you watch the film) are to an extent redundant and I think the movie would have only benefited by finishing a bit earlier.
Most of the fans of Tornatore's previous films will find La migliore offerta quite good. It's slow paced but rarely boring and delivers on expectations. For people who are not that much into the Italian director's work, chances are this movie is not going to change drastically their opinion about him.