Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) is an elderly and esteemed, but eccentric art expert. He is hired by a solitary young heiress, Claire Ibbotson (Hoeks), to auction of a large collection of art and antiques that were left to her by her parents. Claire constantly refuses to be seen in person, rather speaks through walls or by letter. Oldman finds small mechanical parts around Claire’s mansion which he passes on to his friend Robert (Sturgess) to see if he can understand what they are. As Claire and Virgil get closer, he soon realises that all is not what it should be in this new client.
The film was originally called The Best Offer, but was changed for unknown reasons to Deception here in the UK. It’s a strange name change, as the film deals with the art/auction angle for the majority. This new title could relate to 90% of films on general release. Yet here we are thrown into a film that has more than enough tingles of Supernatural about it all. An odd choice for sure to mix up art and supernatural, yet it’s the spooky side of the film that actually kept us interested and intrigued as to what was really happening. It never lumps it all together for the viewer to make sense of, instead it teases the plot.
For all the good it does with the supernatural element, the film then struggles to incorporate the normal everyday life of Oldman and his gang. At times it feels like two separate films because they are so far apart in terms of meshing together. The supernatural element is entertaining but the rest suffers from being a far too basic tale of a man’s one-upmanship between three guys.
Geoffrey Rush continues his rich vein of form here. He excels in the role of Virgil and seems plenty happy to be slowly going made over coming to terms with finally finding love. Rush has a commanding screen presence even when it’s the quieter moments, he picks apart the character and is able to show every angle of Oldman. We could happily watch him read the phonebook.
Sylvia Hoeks is a curious female lead, an engaging beauty but is dialled back in her performance. There is a constant feeling that there’s something else that lies behind the beauty and brains. An ability to hold the screen even whilst she is stuck behind a wall fairs well for Hoeks. Jim Sturgess is the one let down here. He plays the character like a typical cockney east end boy, yet offers nothing remotely interesting or engaging for his role. It’s an add on performance that could have come from anywhere.
The paranormal blended with art (house) is an intriguing and partly rewarding experience. But it can’t work out how to mix the two genres and formulate a cohesive film that is as psychological as it is impressive. Rush may be engaging, but even he cannot hold a film where everyone else is out of sorts alongside a storyline that isn’t sure what it wants to do.