Saturday, June 07, 2008

Flawless: Grade B

Alas, this gem of a movie is flawed. Moore gives an outstanding performance as an executive in 1960 London, working for a DeBeers-like diamond supplier. She looks terrific in the period costumes and reacts with subtlety and depth when she is repeatedly passed over for promotions. Caine is a rascally janitor who, because of his unrestricted access to the building, knows all about her, her career and its frustrations. He suggests that they remove a thermos full of diamonds from the vault, retire happily, the company never the wiser. He counts on her frustration and desire for revenge. The heist goes well, with enough tension to keep us on edge, secret motives are revealed, and some unexpected twists surface. We are satisfied, as we were in The Thomas Crowne Affair, when these anti-heroes get away with it.

Or we would be satisfied if it weren't for a wrong-headed set of before and after scenes obviously tacked on later. In the opening scene, a reporter interviews an aged Moore, newly free after 30 years in prison. What that means is never explained, but it contradicts the story to be told and turns it into an emotionally distant flashback. The closing scene of the movie is Moore telling the reporter that she never heard from Caine after the heist. These scenes don’t make any sense, are unnecessary, and spoil the perfection of the movie. The opener was probably added to foil (falsely, it turns out) easy plot predictions, then the opener needed the closer. Very bad choice.

Otherwise, though, photography is clean and bright, directing and editing are good, sets and costumes are perfection. Paul Desmond’s clarinet solo from “Take Five” sets the mood. The feminist theme blends well into the story, giving the tired heist genre a lift. All the actors give strong performances. This could have been a sophisticated heist movie, until somebody realized there were no guns, explosives or car chases, so added a stupid red herring instead. You have to wonder how such poor decisions get through.

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