- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2008

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on www.commonsensemedia.org.

‘Flawless’

Rating: PG-13

Common Sense Media: On. For ages 14 and older.

(out of five stars)

Running time: 108 minutes

Common Sense review: In present-day London, a young reporter interviews Laura Quinn (Demi Moore) about her experience as a female executive during the ‘60s in the male-dominated world of diamond sales and acquisitions. Laura puts a diamond the size of a chicken egg on the table; the movie then flashes back to the past, where her movement up the corporate ladder is stalled due to her gender — and where friendly janitor Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine) makes an unusual proposition. He suggests combining Laura’s position and privilege with his access to the building — with the aim of taking just a few diamonds from the basement storage vaults. It’s a simple plan … but, of course, things don’t go as planned.

“Flawless” is a perfectly fine caper film that’s undermined by the framing device and moral lesson surrounding it; Miss Moore’s clumsy old-age makeup is distracting, and the film’s ultimate message feels tacked on and superfluous.

The best thing in the film is Mr. Caine; who could have imagined that one of the screen’s biggest hams would have turned into such a subtle, sly old pro late in his career? Miss Moore is also good — in the ‘60s scenes, Laura has a nice mix of toughness and vulnerability, and while there’s a hint of romance in the air when handsome investigator Mr. Finch (Lambert Wilson) asks questions about the theft, Miss Moore gets to be defined by who she is, not by the men around her.

Director Michael Radford shoots the heist material with cool competence, making it even more of a shame that he didn’t cut screenwriter Edward A. Anderson’s clumsy, clunky modern-day sequences that bookend the retro cool of Miss Moore and Mr. Caine’s unlikely (and unstable) partnership in crime. The film’s smoke-wreathed, tweed-clad style looks great, but the best reason to see “Flawless” is ultimately Mr. Caine’s top-notch work as Hobbs.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that although this ‘60s-set heist drama is relatively tame from a content perspective (aside from the nonstop smoking and drinking meant to evoke the earlier era) it probably won’t interest most youths. Its message is a double-edged sword: Sexism and classism are vanquished — through criminal activity. There’s also extensive discussion of whether Miss Moore’s character is sacrificing “happiness” (a relationship, children, etc.) in order to succeed at business, as well as a lot of material about the dirty business of pretty things — how diamonds are mined by the poor and sold to the rich. That said, the movie has virtually no sexual content, and strong language is also infrequent.

Families can talk about the curious logic of many heist films — can, in fact, two wrongs ever make a right? Families also can discuss sexism in the workplace, past and present, as well as questions of class, capitalism and consumerism (think of the movie as a mix of “9 to 5” and “Oceans Eleven” set in ‘60s London). Is it right that Hobbs is largely invisible to his employers? Or that Laura is routinely passed over for promotion? Also, why is it that caper/heist films — which usually involve detailed, intricate schemes to steal — are so engaging and popular?

Sexual content: Extensive discussion of sexism in the ‘60s workplace; at one point, a male co-worker clearly appreciates the view when Miss Moore walks past. Some flirting.

Language alert: Limited strong language.

Violence alert: One character is threatened with a gun; another suffers a heart attack.

Social behavior alert: Workplace sexism is discussed, with Miss Moore’s character noting her mother’s advice that “beating the boys won’t make you popular or happy.” Being passed over at work because of her gender directly leads to Laura’s participation in Hobbs’ scheme. Some discussion of South Africa’s apartheid regime and the political ramifications of the diamond trade. Extensive discussion of divisions between white-collar executives and the working class, and how that can lead to bitter resentment. The film’s ultimate message, while heavy-handed, is a positive one.

Alcohol/tobacco/drug alert: Constant cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, mostly for period effect; there’s no mention of long-term consequences.

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