James Figueras is a noted art critic who, after getting into some trouble, has fallen from grace. Mind you, he isn’t destitute but surely doesn’t have the profile he could have had. Enter Joseph Cassidy, a notable collector, who hosts the reclusive Jerome Debney on one of his estates. Joseph asks of James to procure him one of Debney’s work, and in return, he’ll get to interview a man who hasn’t done an interview in nearly 50 years.
But, as this goes on, a young woman named Berenice is with James, talking to him, sleeping with him, tasked with being his partner in getting what Joseph wants. However, in their banter, there comes the point where neither are sure how far the other is willing to go to maintain the game they are playing. Much less, whether the lies and misdirection are part of the game or not.
Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered
Rated R primarily due to above waist nudity, likely smoking (since that ups your rating), as well as violence.
Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs
[…] never let a thing’s worth obscure its value. — Joseph Cassidy
Lying’s easy when you tell the truth. — Berenice
James (Claes Bang)
A notable art critic who, while still employed and respected to a point, isn’t where he once was or could be in the art world. Which makes the proposal of Joseph Cassidy and the chance to meet the legendary Jerome Debney, the opportunity of a lifetime.
Joseph (Mick Jagger)
Rich, by means not revealed, but a well-known art collector and philanthropist, all Joseph wants is an original Debney painting. After all, the man lives on his estate, refuses to eat with him, so he is looking for something out of supporting Debney’s lifestyle.
Jerome (Donald Sutherland)
Both famous and infamous for the role fire has played in his life, while Jerome has little to no artwork in circulation, he is a reminder of how much the artist creates the value of the art. For his scarce appearances, the story of one of his pieces surviving a fire, and the idea he has 50 years of work that no one has set sights on, it only grows his legend and Joseph’s hunger.
Berenice (Elizabeth Debicki)
A woman from a small town in the Midwest, traveling Europe to get away from an unfortunate series of decisions back home. She was looking for fun, something casual, and accidentally slipped into the art world with two players who don’t have much of a moral compass.
James and Berenice
Recently Elizabeth Debicki has been cast to play Princess Diana on Netflix’s The Crown, and you can see why. There is something about her that is mesmerizing and playful, in a naughty way. Not naughty as in sexual, but more so naughty in terms of Berenice’s willingness to play along with James, even when he clearly is not what he seems. And it is with that charm you are drawn into her, and Bang in extension since he makes a wonderful scene partner for her.
Mind you, on his own, the character doesn’t give much. However, when paired with Debicki, you are given the rare opportunity to watch a woman eclipse a man who her character seems to be meant to support. Heck, I’d even say when it comes to Jagger and Sutherland’s characters, as much as you could submit Berenice is pushed to be someone they admire for beauty and fun, she just as much plays well with their characters as she makes them ottomans to rest her feet upon.
In general, the men are fairly dull and come off as the type who often make art lovers come off pretentious. For as much as they speak of love, technique, passion, and seem to actually care about art, it isn’t something conveyed in such a way to make it accessible and to help you see from their point of view. Rather, their manner of speaking is done to make them seem all-knowing and you an imbecile lucky enough to hear them talk.
This sours James’ story since it forces us to watch him interact with men who see themselves as oh so witty and charming, one after another, as James seeks out one of Debney’s paintings. And the route he takes to get one is so dramatic and filled with desperation that it makes question if the screenwriter is to blame or if the book is just as questionable.
If the focus was just James dealing with how he blew up his life and Berenice on the run from her own, this would likely be recommended for their back and forth was that good. They had the kind of relationship some could dream of, and Debicki’s charm made nearly every man she spoke to the second most interesting person in the room.
Alas, Debicki is a saving grace that will help see you through but may not be enough to deal with James’ storyline of trying to return to prominence. Hence the mixed label.
With Debney making it appear he isn’t going to give James anything beyond conversation and a meal, he gets desperate. For with Joseph blackmailing him, noting he’ll ruin what’s left of his reputation, James uses Berenice to the best of his abilities to steal and set flame to all but one of Debney’s canvases. All of which are blank, by the way, since Debney seemingly has just been living for free, barely working at all.
Thus, to save his reputation, James draws something, puts Debney’s name on it, and plans to give it to Joseph. However, with Berenice trying to push James to do what’s right, he drowns her. Well, at least he thought he drowned her, but he simply knocked her out. Leading to her nearly escaping yet, halfway out the building he catches up to her, apologizes, and she returns to his home.
But, as before, she questions him, then antagonizes him, and then he kills her with a swift hit using an ashtray. Said murder he seems to get away with for he has Berenice’s body sink to the bottom of a lake where only Debney frequents. But, after his death, Debney sends an envelope with flies, alluding to him knowing. However, with no one else the wiser, James gets away with murder.
Although, what he doesn’t get is the one actual Debney piece in existence, which is with Berenice’s mom and is a picture of her using the color blue.
They killed the most interesting character in the film. There isn’t any need or reason for a sequel. Not to play down how James’ paranoia couldn’t make for something interesting, and maybe the film could live up to the “thriller” genre that it supposed is. However, as noted, James and the rest lack that oomph to make you want more of them.