Doodad Kind of Town

April 13, 2008, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Flawless” is the best new movie I’ve seen so far this year.

You may take this with a grain of salt if you wish, as I’ve spent very little time in multiplexes in recent weeks. But I honestly can’t remember being so invested in any crime/heist/suspense movie since Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” in 2006.

In this coolly stylish thriller, set in London in 1960, Demi Moore plays the only female manager in a leading British diamond merchant’s company. Ahead of her time both in her accomplishments and her ambitions, Moore is increasingly frustrated in her attempts to break into the old boys’ network and become a managing director. At the office, she writes herself encouraging notes on index cards (“Don’t give up. Work harder. You will win.”); at home in her lonely, luxurious flat, she spends pensive evenings clutching cigarettes in her impeccably manicured fingers and pondering what to do next.

Then along comes the office janitor (Michael Caine) who finds Moore’s discarded “pep-talk-to-self” index cards in the trash, and who witnesses the higher-ups discussing plans to stall her career. He approaches Moore with the information, and presents her with a scheme to exact revenge. Caine – a harmless old man whom no one would notice, let alone suspect of misdeeds – spends late evenings cleaning the floors just outside the company’s diamond vault. If Moore can secure the code that opens the vault, Caine suggests, he can get in, fill his empty coffee thermos with valuable diamonds, and give her half the profits once he sells them.

Moore rebuffs him at first, but as her chances for promotion appear to grow ever dimmer, she finally gives in. Complications arise when surveillance cameras are installed outside the bank vault door, but she and Caine hatch a method for Caine to evade the camera’s notice.

And then the stakes get much higher. The theft is discovered quickly, but it’s far more than a thermos full of diamonds that’s gone missing. The entire contents of the vault are gone. And so “Flawless” kicks grandly into high gear. Answers to the obvious questions (How did Caine get all the diamonds out? And what’s his motive anyway? And will he and Moore get away with it?) are doled out with tantalizing restraint. And unpredictability. I can honestly say I never saw any of it coming.

Under Michael Radford’s assured direction, “Flawless” crackles along with a tension both elegant and efficient. The interiors of the London Diamond offices are cool and polished, the lobby is airy and brightly lit – and yet these spaces feel strangely sinister. The story, underscored by period-appropriate jazz (Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” among other pieces), moves along at brisk but unhurried pace. Clues and complications are stacked up and then neatly resolved with a pace and a precision that leaves you hanging, breathless, on every line of dialogue.

Moore is gorgeous: stunningly outfitted in stylish, career-woman period costumes, red-lipsticked and impeccably coiffed. There’s a inscrutability to her performance that irritated me at first. I started to wonder how an actress more skilled at nuance – Cate Blanchett, for example – would handle the part. But I slowly realized that Moore’s inscrutability is exactly what the role calls for. Her character has years of practice in submerging her true feelings, acquiescing to male superiors and tamping down her emotional longings in service of her career ambitions. Her frosty reserve, with the merest hint of desire beneath it, makes perfect sense. Caine, too, is understated, withholding more than he gives away. Nothing about his character suggests that he is particularly kind or generous, but nothing is suspicious or worrying either. You can’t really guess at his motives, but when they’re revealed, his character finally clicks into place.

“Flawless” isn’t necessarily a descriptive title for this film. There are niggling problems and oversights here and there. Moore speaks with a just-passable English accent, yet her character is clearly identified as an Oxford-educated American. I had to wonder why she bothered. There are talky bursts of exposition in the first half of the film that are maddeningly difficult to follow. And the ultimate fate of Moore’s character seems more than a little contrived. But the flaws wind up being small matters. “Flawless” is, finally, a slick and satisfying entertainment with a great story and a seductive sense of early ’60s period ambience.


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

The movie sounds good, I might watch it.

Comment by MayYouSeeNothing

That sounds good, Pat. It’s on the list.

Comment by Marilyn

May you… – Welcome, thanks for stopping by. I think you would enjoy “Flawless.”Marilyn – When you see it,I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you have On Demand, you can see it there this month.

Comment by Pat

Had not heard of this one, but great review, Pat. Not a fan of Moore, but I adore Michael Caine. You’ve convinced me to add it to my Netflix list, though it won’t be on DVD till the first week of June.

Comment by Mrs. Thuro

I do have On Demand. Thanks for the tip!

Comment by Marilyn

Hmm, I was literally this close to catching this, but bailed during a busy week. It just didn’t seem like it had any bad elements, so I’m glad to hear that was true. Now I have to add it to the DVD list, I suppose…

Comment by Daniel G.

Mrs. Thuro – I’m no fan of Moore’s either; I gave up on her completely after “GI Jane.” I wouldn’t say she gave a great or particularly skilled prefomrance in “Flawless,” but she was effective.DanielG – yeah, definitely add it to your DVD list, it’s worth it.

Comment by Pat

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