The Best Offer

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The Best Offer
Theatrical release poster
ItalianLa migliore offerta
Directed byGiuseppe Tornatore
Written byGiuseppe Tornatore
Produced byIsabella Cocuzza
Arturo Paglia
CinematographyFabio Zamarion
Edited byMassimo Quaglia
Music byEnnio Morricone
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • 1 January 2013 (2013-01-01)
Running time
131 minutes
Budget$18 million[1]
Box office$20,489,700[2][3]

The Best Offer (Italian: La migliore offerta – entitled Deception in the UK) is a 2013 English-language Italian psychological thriller film written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. The film stars Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, and Donald Sutherland. The music score was composed by Ennio Morricone.


The story revolves around Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush), an ageing and renowned, but fastidious, eccentric and highly temperamental managing director of a preeminent auction house. While giving an engaging performance to the public at auction, Virgil is not at ease with them individually; he refuses to use a cell phone and only removes his gloves to touch artwork as he has OCD.

Virgil is hired by a mysterious young heiress, Claire Ibbetson (Sylvia Hoeks), to auction off a large collection of art and antiques left to her by her parents. Claire, who suffers from severe agoraphobia, refuses to be seen, hiding herself in a locked safe room. She has decided to trust Oldman, as his own disorder means he also avoids physical contact with others. Soon Virgil, a lifelong bachelor who has never been able to relate to a woman who is not on canvas, realizes that he is becoming obsessed with her.

An astute young artisan, Robert (Jim Sturgess), who has a shop repairing and restoring anything mechanical, aids Oldman in restoring and reassembling some mechanical geared parts that oddly keep turning up on Claire's property, which appear to be from a potentially valuable historic automaton. Robert, who is very successful with women, is soon giving him advice on how to befriend Claire, and how to deal with his feelings towards her.

The side narrative of the automaton is that it could supposedly talk; while Robert theorizes it must have been designed to contain a dwarf in order to accomplish this, Virgil notes while some trickery like that must have been involved, no one has been able to explain how the automaton always provided the correct answers to the questions it was asked. This topic is furthered when Virgil begins to frequent a cafe across from Claire's home so he can watch the gates. Aware of the slightest detail and nuance when it comes to art, he is totally oblivious every time to a dwarf who is seated at the window, ignoring her not only when she accurately calculates aloud the points the pinball game across the room is racking up, but confounds the cafe's patrons with correct calculations and mathematical formulae in answer to their questions.

Virgil's reputation as an authenticator who is above reproach is belied by an ongoing scam, whereby he presents actual master portraits of women at auction as inauthentic, the work of minor artists or forgers, so that his friend Billy Whistler (Donald Sutherland) can act as his shill, bidding on them at prices far below what they should actually have fetched. While Billy has abetted Virgil's acquisition of a large private collection worth many millions, he is disappointed that as an aspiring artist himself, Oldman does not take his work seriously, declaring that Billy has "no inner mystery."

An example of Virgil's manipulations to swindle his clients is revealed when he discovers a mouldy, charred piece of wood at a client's estate. Declaring it probably worthless, he fails to solicit it as a gift. Unfazed, when professional restoration does reveal a painting underneath, Virgil declares it is by a 16th-century forger who identified herself with an obscurely placed "V," and notes that all forgers are irresistibly tempted to modify the original by adding something of themselves, that self-betrayal reveals the forger's own authentic sensibilities. After having prepped his clients that the piece will sell for a modest price at auction, he relies on Billy to acquire it, but Billy is too slow in placing a competing bid and, in an embarrassing confrontation mid-auction with the other bidder, the painting is sold to her for £90,000. A furious Virgil later confronts Billy and reveals it was actually an original worth £8 million, and not a forgery. Soon afterwards, Billy buys the painting from that bidder for £250,000 and sells it to Virgil at cost, claiming he only wants to restore their damaged relationship.

An infatuated Virgil eventually begins a relationship with Claire which compromises his work, despite Billy warning him that human emotions are like works of art; they can be forged, meaning that even love can be faked. When Virgil is beaten up by a gang after he leaves the villa and is left lying in the street, Claire overcomes her fear of the outside world and comes to his rescue. At the peak of the relationship, Virgil lays aside his gloves and a still-fragile Claire goes to live with him. He trusts her enough to show her his lifetime secret collection. Overcome with emotion, she tells Virgil that, no matter what might happen to the two of them, she does love him.

At a restaurant dinner with Robert and his girlfriend, Virgil presents Claire with the collection catalogue. When she confesses that she has decided not to sell, rather than being angry at all his effort going to waste, a besotted Virgil happily rips it up, declaring he would do the same if the property belonged to him. He then announces that his farewell auction performance will be in London in a week. After the successful event, Billy congratulates him and tells him that to remind him of what a great artist he could have been if only Virgil has believed in him, he has sent him one of his paintings. Virgil laughingly promises not to burn it.

When he returns home, he discovers both Claire and his entire collection are gone. The empty vault contains only the restored automaton, which plays Robert's message saying that there is something authentic concealed in every forgery, which is why he will truly miss Virgil. Virgil also discovers that a supposed portrait of Claire's mother was actually a portrait of her, painted by Billy, and has been left for Virgil, complete with a telling dedication "with love and gratitude."

Virgil is unable to go to the police as the victim of the elaborate fraud since he acquired the now stolen works by illicit means. He soon discovers that the dwarf in the restaurant is not only also named Claire, but is the real owner of the villa. She reveals that while she has hired it out to some film directors, for the past two years it has been rented by "an engineer" that could only have been Robert. She then gives him the exact number of the hundreds of times the supposedly agoraphobic "Claire" left the villa and that over the course of the con, the contents of the villa had been moved in three times and removed three times.

After months of recovering from the betrayal in a mental institution, Virgil is still haunted by memories of making love to Claire. Carrying Billy's portrait of her, he takes a trip to Prague, where rooms opposite the famous medieval tower clock have been configured to his specifications. He hangs the portrait on the wall and visits a restaurant which Claire claimed to be nostalgic for, as it was where she had been happy. It is filled with clocks and mechanical gearwork. When asked by the waiter if he is alone, Virgil says he is waiting for someone. As the camera pulls back to reveal a myriad collection of noisily whirring, ticking and moving clockworks that are all in motion.


  • Geoffrey Rush as Virgil Oldman, prestigious auctioneer
  • Jim Sturgess as Robert, tinkerer and mechanical repairman
  • Sylvia Hoeks as Claire Ibbetson, reclusive heiress
  • Donald Sutherland as Billy Whistler, artist; friend of Virgil who helps him at auctions
  • Philip Jackson as Fred, caretaker of the Ibbetson mansion
  • Katie McGovern as art expert
  • Dermot Crowley as Lambert (Virgil's main assistant)
  • Liya Kebede as Sarah, Robert's girlfriend
  • Maximilian Dirr as Virgil's twink
  • Laurence Belgrave as Virgil's Assistant
  • Sean Buchanan as Virgil's Assistant
  • Kiruna Stamell as Claire, woman in the bar who keeps count of things
  • Anton Alexander as Real Estate Agent
  • John Benfield as Barman
  • Miles Richardson as Steirereck Maitre
  • James Patrick Conway as Steirereck Manager
  • Brigitte Christensen as First Daughter


The film was produced by Paco Cinematografica with support from the FVG (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) Film Fund. Filming began in Trieste on April 30, 2012. For Tornatore this meant a return to Trieste: it was here he shot La Sconosciuta in 2005, with Xenia Rappoport. Filming took place in a period of five to six weeks in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Vienna, Prague, and South Tyrol.[4]


Critical reception[edit]

The Best Offer received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 55%, with an average rating of 5.84/10, based on reviews from 33 critics.[5] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 49 (out of 100), based on reviews from 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6] Andrew Pulver of The Guardian rated it 2/5 stars and called it "stiff" and "convoluted".[7] Philippa Hawker of The Age rated it 3/5 stars and called it "handsome, yet austere".[8] Sandra Hall of the Brisbane Times rated it 4/5 stars and praised Geoffrey Rush's acting.[9] Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter called it "astutely written".[10] Variety called the film "superficial" and "clichéd", but predicted box office success.[1]

Box office[edit]

On the Italian opening weekend, the film grossed $2,496,402 from 373 theaters and debuted at number 2 on the box office chart, behind Us in the U.S.. It grossed $12,021,662 domestically and $8,468,038 overseas for a worldwide gross of $20,489,700.[2][3]


Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
58th David di Donatello Awards[11] Best Film Giuseppe Tornatore Won
Best Director Giuseppe Tornatore Won
Best Script Giuseppe Tornatore Nominated
Best Producer Isabella Cocuzza and Arturo Paglia Nominated
Best Cinematography Fabio Zamarion Nominated
Best Sets and Decorations Maurizio Sabatini and Raffaella Giovannetti Won
Best Costumes Maurizio Millenotti Won
Best Makeup Luigi Rocchetti Nominated
Best Hairstyling Stefano Ceccarelli Nominated
Best Editing Massimo Quaglia Nominated
Best Sound Gilberto Martinelli Nominated
Best Score Ennio Morricone Won
Youngs' David Giuseppe Tornatore Won
67th Silver Ribbon Awards[12] Best Director Giuseppe Tornatore Won
Best Producer Isabella Cocuzza and Arturo Paglia Won
Best Screenplay Giuseppe Tornatore Nominated
Best Cinematography Fabio Zamarion Nominated
Best Scenography Maurizio Sabatini and Raffaella Giovannetti Won
Best Costumes Maurizio Millenotti Won
Best Editor Massimo Quaglia Won
Best Sound Gilberto Martinelli Nominated
Best Score Ennio Morricone Won
53rd Italian Golden Globe[13] Best Cinematography Fabio Zamarion Nominated
Best Music Ennio Morricone Nominated
26th European Film Awards Best Film Giuseppe Tornatore Nominated
Best Director Giuseppe Tornatore Nominated
Best Screenwriter Giuseppe Tornatore Nominated
Best Composer Ennio Morricone Won
People's Choice Award Giuseppe Tornatore Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Review: "The Best Offer"". Variety. 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  2. ^ a b "La Migliore Offerta (The Best Offer)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 2013-11-02. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
  3. ^ a b "La Migliore Offerta (The Best Offer)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-01-09.
  4. ^ Scarpa, Vittoria (2012-04-05). "Tornatore shoots The Best Offer in Trieste". Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  5. ^ "The Best Offer (La Migliore Offerta) (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  6. ^ "The Best Offer". Metacritic. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  7. ^ Pulver, Andrew (2013-02-13). "The Best Offer – First Look Review". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  8. ^ Hawker, Philippa (2013-08-29). "The Best Offer review: Artistry in Fascination with Beauty". The Age. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  9. ^ Hall, Sandra (2013-08-29). "The Best Offer review: Perfect Frame to Display Rush's Talent". Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  10. ^ Young, Deborah (2013-01-05). "The Best Offer: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  11. ^ Hombrebueno, Pierre (2013-06-15). "Giuseppe Tornatore's The Best Offer Wins Big at the Embarassing Italian Oscars". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on 2013-09-13. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  12. ^ Lyman, Eric J. (2013-07-07). "'The Best Offer' Wins Big at Italy's Nastri d'Argento Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  13. ^ "Geoffrey Rush film sweeps Silver Ribbon awards". BBC News. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2013-09-01.

External links[edit]