A Martian on Offer

It’s been a while since I wrote some movie reviews. The reasons for that are a) busy at work and not seeing that many movies, b) not so much remarkable stuff out there that inspires me to write a review.
But now there are two movies that I’d like to say something about.
At first something not so well known, but that I highly recommend (spoiler alert).

The Best Offer
I don’t think too many people saw that movie, which is a shame, since it’s awfully good.
It’s a European production with Geoffrey Rush in the lead role and Donald Sutherland in a supporting part. The story centers around an arts evaluator/auctioneer played by Rush, who has a side scheme going on. He pays Sutherland for acquiring some of the auction pieces for him, which he previously evaluated, declared below value to get them cheaper and which he adds to his private collection. That private collection consists of female portraits only. Rush, around 60, has never been with a woman, he is a recluse of sorts, wears gloves all the time for “hygiene” reasons and only admires the portraits of women instead of real ones.

Until he is asked to catalogue the fine furniture and art of a young woman who inherited the stuff from her parents. Now that young woman has a problem. She has fear of wide and crowded places and lives as a true recluse, hiding out of sight in a secret room of her villa. Rush talks to her through the wall and slowly becomes obsessed with her, wanting to see her face, identifying himself with her, since he has similar problems. Finally, she reveals herself to him and he falls in love with her.

Although I anticipated the ending from the moment she reveals herself to him, it was devastating to see that ending play itself out. It turns out that she, Sutherland’s character and another side character whom Rush thought to be his friend, were working together with the aim to relieve Rush of his priceless portrait collection. The defeat is thorough and deep… friends whom he trusted played with his anxieties and his innermost feelings to get to the paintings. There is something incredibly mean and vicious in this story because the “friends” hurt Rush’s soul and truly get to him. They destroy the man thoroughly. This is more horror than having zombies gnaw at your feet. The story has no special effects and hardly any blood but it gets under your skin because of the unbelievable betrayal and meanness displayed. That’s the kind of story that sticks with you, but beware – it’ll make you lose your faith in humanity.

The Martian
As a side note – interestingly this movie is called “Odyssey” in Japan. I don’t know why they changed the title. I haven’t read the book, so I can only comment on the movie. I heard the book is much better and more intense, since you get the inner monologue, feelings of the guy stuck on Mars, which is not so easy to express on screen.
I suppose the screenwriter and director had discussions on how to express those feelings. They refrained from voice-over and resorted to the Martian talking to himself or to a camera for the purpose of recording his predicament. Maybe a voice-over would have been better?

The movie is nicely made, a nice piece of hard SF that for the most part looked believable to me. I wasn’t cringing like with dropping into the black hole in Interstellar where the attempt at “realism” excused itself. The Martian looks pretty “real” even if the “Iron Man” stunt at the end is a bit over the top. It’s a nice movie to watch, but it left me emotionally untouched in contrast to “The Best Offer”, because of an odd clinical distance to the characters. I didn’t really feel the commander’s anguish at leaving the Martian behind. I didn’t really feel the despair and the fear of the Martian at having been left behind. I’m sure that this worked better in the book, but the movie failed to convey emotional depth.

Cast Away comes to mind, another Robinson Crusoe variation where Tom Hanks is stranded on a lonely island. I felt much more with Tom Hanks and rooted much more for him than for the Martian. Maybe it’s also the quality of the acting 😉 At least in my opinion Tom Hanks is the way better actor than Matt Damon… So, the Martian is a nice movie, but that’s it and I’m not particularly inclined to watch it again or to add it to my movie collection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *