An Underappreciated Movie

November 3, 2007 at 2:28 pm (Horror, Movies)

Last night, friends brought over Perfect Stranger, a very poorly received (9% on Rotten Tomatoes) thriller that came out this year. I almost passed over watching it to instead pop in The Bourne Ultimatum, and for the first twenty minutes, I rather wished that I had. The characters and plot development seemed abrupt and formulaic, and the whole jumpiness of the film made me rather uncomfortable. The further we got into the film, however, the more I began to realize that the discomfort was deliberate, that the film was designed to create just that sensation, and that what I had chalked up to poor writing and directing was actually the beginnings of a much more complicated thriller, a thriller that I ultimately liked a great deal.

The film’s appeal lied, in part, in the characters themselves. Although each of the characters is fundamentally flawed, their flaws are not simply fodder for the plot; the actors do a splendid job of making each character multi-dimensional, and even sympathetic, for all of their failures. One technique that I found especially interesting was, whenever there was some stretch of expository conversation, a la “Okay, I’ve made your account, now here’s what you do with it…,” that could end up very dry and boring, the visuals would compress time so that each sentence in the conversation would happen at a completely different time of day, in the sequence as the characters prepare for the action, but not as a voiceover. For example, Giovanni Ribisi would call Halle Berry from his office, and she’d answer his call from a cafe where she was spying on Bruce Willis. When we next see GR, he’s on his couch, in front of his personal computer, and Halle Berry picks up the conversation while putting on a dress and makeup to go in for an interview. She finishes the conversation while walking into the agency for her new job. I wish that I had the technical vocabulary to describe this technique, but I found it to be very effective at maintaining interest by creating the impression of frantic, purposeful action in the screen’s visuals, while avoiding the voice-over and thereby allowing the actors to express their moods, etc. via facial expressions and body language.

The movie is not without its flaws. There are, arguably, an overdose of red herrings, but that is part of what kept me interested in the film. I confess that I never saw the ending coming, and I’d like to think that’s fairly rare with a Hollywood thriller. So, if you like convoluted thrillers and very flawed characters, then I do recommend that you see this movie. You may not like it, but I’m pretty sure that I haven’t seen anything quite like it before.

1 Comment

  1. Agent Flying Mouse said,

    Maybe you should be an entertainment writer instead of a travel writer. I keep reading your reviews of plays and movies and performances. You are doing what you like to do so if you shift your perception of what it is you really want to do, maybe you’ll be less hard on yourself (hmm?). Or maybe more accepting of reality anyway. booga-booga.

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