6/10/2008

Flawless (2008)

Director:
Michael Radford

We open in a newsroom several years ago: Overlooking the fact that the only other woman on the floor was sitting at the reception desk, I fought that familiar battle between anxiety and adrenaline while being ushered across the floor of a major American newspaper (which shall go nameless) for what at that point, I perceived would be one of the most important interviews of my professional career. Feeling incredibly insecure but infinitely glad that I opted to wear a feminine yet conservative suit, I recalled my father’s advice to smile while always looking men directly in the eye as I shook the editor’s hand, again choosing not to dwell on the fact that-- as someone who still occasionally gets carded at R rated movies-- he was obviously disappointed by my youthful appearance that didn’t match my overflowing resume. Immediately relieved to see a second male with a far friendlier face enter the room, it dawned on me they’d be playing good editor, bad editor, however, I was incredibly unprepared when bad editor’s eyes methodically looked me up and down-- dwelling uncomfortably long on my legs—and his tone changed as he stared me dead in the eye, charging, “Do you even read the paper, honey?” While it was far more subtle than the words of a former (and shockingly) female boss who told me I’d been hired because as opposed to those who seem inherently “back office,” I looked like a “front desk girl,” I was still so taken aback by what I assumed must be a joke that my first instinct was to laugh before he confirmed his seriousness with an eye-roll and more condescension. Realizing with pity what it must be like for the poor receptionist who I made sure to nod at in solidarity later, I decided the interview was a waste and gave bad editor an equally leveled look, telling him honestly that I did read his paper occasionally but frankly, I preferred The New York Times. And although the good editor hid his smile well and seemed not only genuinely impressed by my moxie but amused enough to walk with me after the interview was over, needless to say, I wasn’t shocked when my phone didn’t ring with a lucrative offer from bad editor.

While admittedly... baby, we’ve come a long, long way from the rampant sexism of the 1950’s and 60’s, the glass ceiling as most recently referenced by Hillary Clinton hasn’t been shattered yet and if you ask most women honestly, chances are they all have at least one story to tell that’s similar to the anecdote I just shared. Therefore it only takes a few minutes of director Michael Radford’s Flawless for us to instinctively rally behind actress Demi Moore’s character Laura Quinn, an Oxford educated American woman who works as the only female manager at the London Diamond Corporation in 1960. With a nonexistent personal life and always the first to arrive and the last to leave the office of back-slapping, two faced, witless joke telling colleagues whom one can best sum up as sort of a British, wealthy, highly intelligent version of the popular colloquialism “good ol’ boys” when it comes time for promotions and vice presidencies, the brainy and richly deserving Laura has been passed over six times in the last three years. Shortly after her latest snub, Laura finds herself propositioned by an unlikely ally in the form of Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine), a loyal night janitor who teases her with clich├ęs such as “fortune favors the bold” before suggesting she sublimate the need for revenge and benefit financially at the same time by banding together to steal a thermos full of diamonds from the corporation. First casting the idea aside altogether, Laura has a change of heart when Hobbs learns her position within Lon Di is no longer secure and soon enough the two plot to pull off the heist which evolves with dangerous challenges as security cameras are installed inside the corporation and more secrets are revealed.

Intriguingly and atypical for the heist genre, the cool, unemotionally involving Flawless becomes downright irresistible following what should’ve been its climactic theft as an unexpected twist is introduced and Caine’s character morphs into one finally worthy of the great actor’s talents. Although director Radford’s Flawless isn’t in the same league as his critically acclaimed Oscar favorite Il Postino or the unforgettable 1984, and first time screenwriter Edward Anderson weaves in a few modern and politically topical plot revelations that make it seem a bit anachronistic and unbelievable, it’s wonderful to see the former A list leading lady Demi Moore in something that gives her much more room to shine than as exploited forty plus eye candy in Charlie’s Angels 2.

With the warning that it’s a rather methodical and creaky roller coaster, taking a good forty to fifty minutes of climbing uphill before it finally thrills us on the ride down, Flawless plays even better on the small screen and should make it all the more successful on DVD than it was theatrically, especially for those of us still dizzy from a long day in the unceasing theme park we call the concrete jungle.