SCREENED AT THE 2003 CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There’s a certain giddiness involved when one part of your brain latches onto the discovery that you may be watching one of the most insane films you’ve ever seen. I’ve had experiences with friends where we rip movies like this to shreds and others where we adapt to its insanity and just flat out begin worshipping it. The first half-hour of Perfect Strangers is a lot like the latter, only I had no one to laugh along with it, so I had to overcompensate my guffaws. It’s a flat-out shame the movie couldn’t keep up with me as its lunacy began to silence that giddiness.Just to keep in tone with the movie – a woman walks into a bar. Her name is Melanie (Rachael Blake) and she’s out with the hard-working gals for a night of drink and, if lucky, a little pick-up action. Into her life walks “The Man”. Most actors would love to play a character with such a distinction, but unfortunately for Sam Neill, he’s just nameless. Then again, Melanie takes a drunken shine to him and faster than you can say “your place or mine,” he taking her to his boat. Maybe Sam Neill really is The Man.
After she passes out, the next morning she awakens to the smell of the open New Zealand sea as The Man is literally taking her to his little isolated loveshack. I don’t know what it is about films from this neck of the wood, but why does every one I see involve some form of abduction? At least this one is beginning with a modicum of originality.
Melanie adjusts rather quickly realizing The Man has nothing but the intentions of a romantic interlude at heart. But just how close? He declares his love for her faster than Butthead ever would. When she laughs at him, the laughs begin. In an almost satiric turn of events pointed at every romantic stalking thriller we’ve ever seen, the mano-a-womano elevates to everything we’d expect out of a psychotic third act. And this is just the first half hour.
If the film managed to maintain this kind of energy, it’d be a miracle. Either headed for repetition or a level of downright unbelievability, I still couldn’t wait to see where Perfect Strangers was headed. Then, I couldn’t wait for it to be over.Without ruining what is a wealth of oddly-concocted plot twists, all I can say is be prepared to once again deal with fantasy vs. reality, fractured lapses in character’s psyches and attention spans (beyond our own) that seem to instantly discount what has just happened in the scene before. It’s the kind of fantastical ramblings that film critics never fully understand, yet some feel a need to attach an imagined thesis for its inner meaning. Even David Lynch would watch this and yell out “what the crap!”
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.