Reviews

Flawless

For all Flawless' interest in the workings of Laura's mind, the caper part of the plot is awfully regular.


Flawless

Director: Michael Radford
Cast: Demi Moore, Michael Caine, Lambert Wilson, Joss Ackland
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2008-03-28 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

Mud. Flawless opens on a pair of hands mucking about in brown, viscous mud and water, sifting -- it turns out -- for diamonds. But this sifting isn't set in the mountains of South Africa or Brazil. Instead, this dirty work is taking place in London, 1960.

So begins Michael Radford's caper flick, recalled for a young, pert reporter named Cassie (Kate Maravan). In 2007 or so, for a story on "women who led during the '50s and '60s," she's interviewing Laura Quinn (a very badly plastic-wrinkle-faced Demi Moore). Cassie thinks Laura was a mover and shaker in the diamond industry, specifically at a company called London Diamond. Laura gazes at he youngster across their restaurant table, smooth, if not precisely disdainful. The girl needs an education. And so Laura gives her one. As she begins to describe what it was like to live and work within this "fiercely male-dominated environment," she pulls out a gigantic diamond (58 facets), proof of her survival, indeed, of her own private conquest. As Cassie's eyes go suitably wide, Laura begins to narrate: "A good deal took place at London Diamond that may not be in your notes..."

Unfortunately, what she has to say is not so enticing as this set up suggests. The younger Laura, American born and Oxford-educated, does look terrific, perfectly coiffed in a circa-Jackie flip and form-fitted into her designer suits. Her heels clack on the polished floors of London Diamond, comprised of long, white-walled hallways and impressively huge steel vaults. Here the company, "sole supplier of diamonds to six continents," keeps drawers full of unfinished stones, hard, white, and apparently very seductive, the camera lingering over them. As the men in charge puff cigars and note they've lost some 100 workers in the recent Sharpeville massacre, she listens carefully and waits patiently, hoping against hope that the next promotion will be hers. In an effort to help that dream along, Laura comes up with a frankly daring plan: though the Soviets are demanding sanctions against South Africa for the abuses in the mines and the police shootings, she suggests a deeply hypocritical solution that allows the company privately to keep the Russians as clients while allowing them to "publicly dissociate from racist capitalism." The hitch is that only a precious few mucky-mucks in London Diamond can know of the plan, an elite set that does not, by definition of her rank and gender, include Laura.

The deceit goes another step, as head of the company, Mka (Joss Ackland), adopts Laura's plan while simultaneously conniving not only to fire her, but also to ensure she never works in the industry again. Just as she learns of this devastating affront, Laura is approached by the janitor at London Diamond, Hobbs (Michael Caine). Nearing retirement, he's got a scheme, he says, by which they might steal a thermos full of diamonds from the vault -- at £2 million, an amount so small that the company won't even notice, but will secure their fortunes for life.

Laura's contemplation of the crime is rendered in precise, compelling scenes. As she rolls over the notion that, as Hobbs has noted, her colleagues do not appreciate her "dedication" or ingenuity, that in fact, they are punishing her for exactly these qualities and the threat she embodies, she sits quietly in her dining room alone, cigarette in hand and wine glass half-full. Now reputed to be "grossly incompetent," after having "botched [London Diamond's] relations with the Russians," she's essentially been rejected by the hierarchy for whom she has given up her chances at marriage or any other life resembling a "typical" woman's role. Hobbs' idea sounds like righteous payback.

The film follows Laura's ensuing rocky relationship with Hobbs, as he may or may not be lying to her, as she thinks through each step, as she confronts the company's brand new security system (cameras in the hallways). Manifestly smarter than any of her colleagues or so-called superiors, Laura is nonetheless mystified by Hobbs, whose persistent devotion to his dead wife and own long-lived anger at the diamonds and banking system are pieces of a puzzle the film, to its credit, doesn't exactly solve. Most often adopting Laura's limited view, the movie walks a fine line, admiring her brilliance but also revealing her flaws, her trust in a man who only seems simple and her resentment shaping occasionally imprudent decisions.

For all Flawless' interest in the workings of Laura's mind, the caper part of the plot is awfully regular: long movie minutes are spent watching her steal a code from with Mka's inner sanctum and then watching Hobbs actually steal the stones, an event broken down into multiple security camera views, shots of the security guard missing the security camera view, and still more shots of Hobbs sweating and hustling throughout a long night of work.

If the heist mechanics are tedious, Laura's trajectory is a greater disappointment. It's not long before her lack of information and insight becomes frustrating, not because it troubles the plot, but because it sets her along a path to moral enlightenment orchestrated by the too-wise Hobbs. Her standard-issue girl plot is only extended when she meets the detective on the case of the missing diamonds, the dashing and judicious Finch (Lambert Wilson). Amid all the cat-and-mousing and Laura's ethical evolution, the faraway mine workers rather fall by the wayside.

5
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.