The Best Offer: This Weird, Hilarious, Messed-up Movie I Just Watched on Netflix
WTF is The Best Offer?
The Best Offer is some crazy movie from 2013/14 that I had never heard of, but it stars Geoffrey Rush as an angry auctioneer who finds love when he meets a disembodied voice behind the wall.
It’s better if I just tell you what happens in the movie.
What Happens in the Movie
Geoffrey Rush is an auctioneer, and he’s running some kind of scam with Donald Sutherland that I didn’t pay attention to, because I was playing Bejeweled on my iPod. The gist is that, when he sees a painting he wants for himself, he undervalues it and gets Donald Sutherland to buy it and sell it back to him for less than it’s really worth. Then, he carries the painting back to his house and into a closet that is full of nothing but gloves, where he opens up a secret door to a massive room that houses his ill-gotten art. Then he sits in a chair and stares at the art because his strangeness has made him feel lonely.
Also, all of the paintings he nabs are of women.
Also, he can afford to drop up to two hundred thousand Euros on these paintings, but apparently he can’t find art that he actually likes and can buy legally for that price. Plus, he later tells a story that makes it sound like he grew up poor, so either auctioneers make a lot more money than I thought or he’s fencing some of these paintings somewhere and we’re never told about it.
He gets a phone call from a woman’s voice, and he’s rude to her, but then agrees to meet her, but then she doesn’t show up. Then she phones again and says she was in a car accident, and he agrees to meet her again, and she doesn’t show up again, but the groundskeeper shows him her house and all the random shit she wants him to value and sell for her.
It seems like no one has ever seen this woman before, so she sounds like she’s probably a ghost, but then Geoffrey Rush finds a gear among the random stuff in her house, and it dates back to the 18th century and some guy who used to build automatons, so then it seems like the mystery woman’s probably a robot or a computer program or something.
Geoffrey Rush continues to converse with the disembodied voice, first through a phone, and then through the wall, because apparently this is a woman who has lived alone in the house for twelve years and hides in a concealed room when people come over so that she doesn’t have to see them (I feel her on this).
There is one scene that is kind of legitimately clever, where Geoffrey Rush talks to the disembodied voice on the phone while he’s standing in his room full of women, and the camera tracks over their faces while the disembodied voice is speaking.
Whenever it seems like Geoffrey Rush might be making friends with the disembodied voice, one or the other of them gets angry for no reason and starts screaming and then Geoffrey Rush storms out, and then they make up again. They have a pretty good fight about whether or not it’s okay for him to dye his hair, but the best fight they have is when he brings her flowers for her birthday and she flips out at him over some minor thing in the paperwork of their contract and then he starts screaming at her about how she should just do the world a favour and die and then he throws the flowers in the air and stands there scowling while they fall back down on him. It is the best part of the movie.
Meanwhile, Geoffrey Rush continues to collect parts of the automaton on the sly, and an engineer friend of his works on assembling it.
Eventually, after a lengthy courtship through the wall, Geoffrey Rush decides that the right thing to do is to slam the door really hard, to pretend that he’s gone, and then hide in this woman’s house and spy on her without her consent. So, he does that a few times, and eventually she catches him and is understandably freaked out, but not before he gets a full frontal view of her crotch when her bathrobe falls open.
For some reason, she decides that she forgives him again, so he gets his friend to hide in her house and spy on her while they’re talking and his friend confirms for him that she exists and is hot. And then they actually shake hands to celebrate that.
Geoffrey Rush starts bringing his lady love makeup and clothes because that’s what his friend coaches him to do and they’re both kind of sexist. And then Geoffrey Rush and his girlfriend fight about the makeup and clothes because they’re both unusually volatile people.
BTW – now that we’ve seen her in person, and other people have seen her, too, we know that this woman is neither a ghost nor a robot and we start to wonder what the point of this is.
Well, one day, Geoffrey Rush’s friend tells him that when he least expects it, his new girlfriend will spontaneously get over her fear of going outdoors. This is immediately followed by a scene in which three random strangers accost Geoffrey Rush and beat him up outside his girlfriend’s house. Like, I don’t think they even mug him. They just beat him up and run off. And it’s night time and it’s raining and his girlfriend runs outside to help him and then she is cured.
Now that she’s cured, Geoffrey Rush invites her to move in with him before she has a chance to meet any men who aren’t, like, two generations older than she is and angry for no reason and stealing parts of her automaton, still. She decides that she doesn’t want to sell off all her stuff after all, and then Geoffrey Rush decides to quit his job because having a live-in sex partner is a better use of his time (more on this later – much, much more on this later).
On his last day at the auction house, everyone gives him a standing ovation, because, in addition to making more money than I thought, auctioneers enjoy a higher level of celebrity than I thought, too. When he comes home, his girlfriend’s not there – I wish I had the patience to, like, screen record this movie and show you a compilation clip of all the times he wanders around on empty sets yelling her name, because it is a lot – anyway, she’s not there, as is often the case, and this time she also stole his room full of paintings.
It turns out that this was all Donald Sutherland’s plan to steal the artwork back so he could sell it at its real value – and everyone was in on it. The girl with the disembodied voice, the guy who was building the automaton, the groundskeeper, the random dudes who beat him up – actors every one, playing their parts in this masterful plan to confuse Geoffrey Rush over a period of several months by making him fight with someone about whether or not it was okay to dye his hair, and makeup, and everything else they pointlessly fought about until finally, at long last, he trusted the woman with the disembodied voice enough to bring her past the shelves of gloves into his secret painting room. I guess.
After he discovers this extremely complicated betrayal, Geoffrey Rush has a long, long flashback of how he had sex with his now ex-girlfriend, because I guess that, even though this adds nothing to the story, it was important to make the actors take off all their clothes and roll around on top of each other while they were filming.
Then, he goes to a restaurant she mentioned in passing one time and sits at a table by himself, and the waiter asks if he’s alone, and he pauses for an uncomfortably long time before he says he’s waiting for someone. And then he orders even though he just said he was waiting. And then there’s a long tracking shot while he sits there by himself because, come on, she’s not that into you. Also, even if she were into you, how would she know what day you’re there?
Now, let’s talk about some stories that I wrote when I was eight years old
Because, when I was eight years old, I believed that, if you wanted to tell a story, it had to be about a bitter middle-aged man who had a vaguely boring job and felt invigorated after meeting a much younger woman whom he fought with all the time, and that their fighting all the time would naturally make them fall in love. And, although I never wrote about this exact scenario, an ending where it turns out that the entire plot was part of a scheme hatched by a secondary character to accomplish a simple task in a needlessly complicated way would have fit well within my repertoire.
And why were my stories all about middle-aged bankers and accountants who became shackled to someone they didn’t much like and fought with all the time before falling in love and getting caught up in some complicated scheme of someone else’s? Because, at that age, I wasn’t trying to tell a story about something – I was just trying to tell a story, and I was mimicking the broad strokes of what I understood from mainstream movies.
The Best Offer feels to me like a hybrid between a story that Giuseppe Tornatore was actually trying to tell and a bunch of things where he said to himself “this is what you have to do in a movie.” I have absolutely no insight into whether or not that’s really what happened – I just know that, when I was watching it, it reminded me of that tender age when all I knew about romance came from Michael Douglas movies.
Like, I can easily imagine a more subtle movie about a guy who falls in love with a woman he can’t see who’s behind a picturesque wall – and the movie I imagine could be pretty fucking good. But this movie is so broad, and so full of things that nobody seems to be interested in – things that seem to be there only because you need conflict to make a movie, and you need secondary characters to make a movie, and you need a subplot to make a movie, and you need a surprising twist to make a movie – the core of the story is in that scene where he’s talking to her on the phone and looking at all the paintings of girls he’s collected, and I just want to say “keep only that scene, and find a better way to get into and out of it. Find a source of conflict that isn’t people yelling at each other. Be a little bit more interested in what all of this means about him.”
Also, at the end, he goes to a restaurant where the walls are full of gears, and I’m like, “I wouldn’t eat there, because my hair would get caught.”
This movie would have been really popular with me when I was less than ten years old. And, because of that… I kind of liked it even though I didn’t think it was good? Watching it was kind of like having a dialogue with my past!self about what a story was.
It also made me wonder what it’s like to be an actor and realize that the movie you’re making is completely insane. Like, do you just fucking shrug and keep going? Are you just like, “They’re paying me to do a job – Imma do it”? The sad thing is, you can’t ask anyone until ten years later, when they all start to say, “Yeah, I never believed in that.”
Coming up next month, I’ll celebrate my acquisition of the special anniversary Blu-ray of Interview with the Vampire by linking to some interviews where Brad Pitt says he hated it.