Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Maiden Heist

The Maiden Heist is not your typical museum heist movie. There's no stud-leading man, no starlet barely managing to cover her attributes, and no villainous security guy trying to shut the whole thing down. The attraction in this film isn't clever computer hacking or out-of-control action scenes, but rather superb acting and a charming, quirky script.

The heroes are the security guards, who are also the thieves. Played by Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, and William H. Macy, these museum guards are normal workaday guys. But each one is passionately, wildly in love - with a work of art. For Walken, it's the Lonely Maiden, a haunting portrait from 19th century France, and for Freeman, it's a Vermeer-like painting entitled Girl with Cats. For Macy, it's an early Greek bronze of a naked warrior, an ideal representation of the male form. When they discover that their artworks have been sold to a Danish museum, they plan to steal the three masterpieces.

While there could be a sense of the ridiculous in the men of a certain age seen here, their loyal dedication to their art doesn't lend itself to ridicule. Walken gives a subtle portrayal of Roger, a very serious museum guard, who fantasizes about how he would sacrifice himself for the girl he loves, the Maiden. His acting here is so unaffected, so normal, it makes me wonder if he's done any other movies like this. Can I get them on Netflix? His wife, played by Marcia Gay Harden, doesn't know his devotion to his job is wrapped up in the Maiden. Harden is wonderfully true to life, and put together to seem much older than she must be. Morgan Freeman plays a rather fussy artist, who ceaselessly copies his Girl with Cats. With his frank admission of fear and his "oh, dears," Freeman comes across as the middle aged bachelor who lives down the hall (with his 15 cats). It's funny and sweet. Macy plays an ex-marine, enthralled by military valor and adventure. His man-crush on the Warrior is more about the masculine virtues than homoeroticism. Macy has some of the best lines, and he plays them well.

The world tends to dismiss men like this, real guys working regular jobs. But what all of us identify with is how passionate love can fill you with purpose, with life. Don't miss the Lonely Maiden and Christopher Walken, whose love of art leads to real love.