April 17, 2008

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Flawless (PG-13)
Demi Moore is very posh as an executive at a diamond dealer who decides that “diamond thief” might be a more lucrative position in Flawless, a low-key but surprisingly engrossing heist film.

It’s early 1960s London and Laura Quinn (Moore) is the only female manager at London Diamond, the biggest diamond concern in the world. She’s bright, she’s ambitious and she’s a hard worker — but those things can’t make up for the fact that she’s a she. Laura watches as less qualified men are promoted ahead of her but, miraculously, all this head-banging against the glass ceiling only motivates her to work harder — that is until she finds out that she’s about to be fired to make her bosses look more competent. She finds this out from Hobbs (Michael Caine), one of the night workers cleaning the building who she knows from her first-in, last-out work schedule. Because people frequently talk in front of him as if he’s not there, he knows that she’s about to be canned. When Laura does a bit of digging she learns that not only is he right but her situation is even more dire — her bosses not only plan to fire her but to prevent her from being hired by any of the major financial institutions or other major industries where she would naturally look for work.

With Laura about to fall off a career cliff and Hobbs near retirement to what he calls a very meager pension, they would both seem to be in need of alternative means of financial security. Hobbs, as it turns out, has some ideas about this, ideas he’s developed during years of spending his nights left unattended outside the door of the vault that houses an unfathomably valuable inventory of diamonds.

Some unnecessary present-day bookending of this story gives away in the movie’s opening moments that there is a heist. As you’d expect, we get motivation, the plan and the necessary hiccup to the plan — the installation, just days before Laura and Hobbs decide to go ahead with the theft, of security cameras.

Flawless looks nice with its Mad Men-era wardrobe, but even cigarette smoke and elaborate hats wouldn’t be enough to carry a movie for nearly two hours. What makes Flawless work is that about halfway through, the story changes and the mystery we think we’re solving becomes a different kind of mysteries — two, really — that involve remembering bits of seemingly irrelevant information from the first half while ignoring the information that seems like it might be significant.

Flawless isn’t exactly a mind-blower when all its secrets are revealed but it’s smart and natty and a level or two above your average crime procedural. Caine is delightful and Moore keeps her Demi-Moore-ness in check. Without exactly getting in line for an Oscar, Moore is able to turn in a performance that has us sympathetic toward her character and rooting for her even as we watch her make stupid amateur-criminal mistakes. B

Rated PG-13 for brief language. Directed by Michael Radford and written by Edward Anderson, Flawless is an hour and 45 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by Magnolia Pictures