Want to know whether that 18th-century painting you bought for a few million is actually a fake? Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) is your guy, a fussily observant assessor and auctioneer who prefers the company of heirlooms to human beings. In this initially intriguing, ultimately very silly romantic thriller from Cinema Paradiso’s Giuseppe Tornatore, our eccentric, hypochondriac hero—who can’t even hold a cell phone without wrapping it in a handkerchief—is hired by an unseen, agoraphobic young woman (Sylvia Hoeks) to sell off her sizable estate. Trouble is, he’s slowly falling in love with his silky-voiced client, who—as he tells his ladies’-man colleague, Robert (Jim Sturgess)—he’s forbidden to lay eyes on.
It’s a promising premise, and give writer-director Tornatore credit for laying out plenty of tantalizing, Hitchcockian narrative bread crumbs. There’s a secret vault filled with ill-gotten paintings, an antique automaton that may hold the key to a shadowy secret, even an autistic little person whose seemingly random obsession with numerical patterns might not be so random after all. None of it comes together in any satisfying way, unfortunately, because Tornatore telegraphs every revelation with head-slapping amateurishness. But the fully committed Rush, at least, commands our constant attention, and no movie with a kookier-than-usual Ennio Morricone score (dig those staccato-chanting chorines!) could ever be a total waste of canvas.
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