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Pretty Bad: 46.15%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 1 rating

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Perfect Host, The
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by Jay Seaver

"A fair bit short of 'perfect'."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The appeal of "The Perfect Host" is plain to see: David Hyde Pierce, in a film that plays to his strengths, both in his character's personality and the stage-like setting and rhythm. The downside takes a little bit more thinking to ferret out; it basically amounts to the sneaking suspicion that every moment of something other than two guys trying to outwit each other is the film barking up the wrong tree.

But, before we see Pierce, we meet John Taylor (Clayne Crawford), who has just robbed a bank but was injured in the getaway. With the cops breathing down his neck, he attempts to con his way into various houses in order to rest up and lay low. Warwick Wilson (Pierce) is the one who finally lets him in after John claims to be a friend of a friend, but things could go haywire very quickly, as Warwick is preparing for a dinner party, with guests that include a tough-on-crime D.A. And as John soon discovers, a Warwick Wilson dinner party is a unique experience.

Things are going well in the first act. There's a nice contrast between Crawford and Pierce: Crawford gives John a certain amount of blue-collar outlaw charisma, clearly happier to charm his adversaries than to use violence, but kind of aware that he does not have boundless resources with which to outwit someone. He's harried, but always reminds the audience that he's potentially dangerous even without being physically imposing. Pierce, meanwhile, makes Warwick clearly privileged without being snotty about it, excellent at cheerily delivering lines that will tighten the noose around John's neck. For a while, the pair of them are standing on a teeter-totter, each making little moves that could knock them off to gain advantage.

And all too early, the balance shifts, the plot twists, and the film treads water for a while. And, it's not bad. It's funny at times. The comedy gets darker, sure, but at the same time, a little sillier. Pierce and Crawford are doing a little more physical comedy, and though the movie has settled down a bit, writer/director Nick Tomnay does a decent job of noose-tightening. The middle section of the movie just has the one gag, and it doesn't play that many variations on it.

Then, there's the end, which just goes on for much too long. Suddenly, we've got a bunch of new characters and locations to deal with, and the twist here is coincidental enough to be overly convenient. It's fun watching Pierce, especially, shift gears, but in doing so we lose track of what makes Warwick tick. And then, there's an epilogue, which brings in yet another new character late in the game, spending what probably isn't a whole lot of time wrapping up loose ends when measured objectively, but considering that we'd already seemed to reach the end twice before, entirely too long for just the tiniest punchline.

I suspect that the last act wasn't in Tomnay's original short film ("The Host"); considering the very tight budget that this feature appears to exhibit, it wouldn't surprise me if that one took place in just one location. This version could benefit from that sort of tightening, especially if it left a little more money to be spent in other areas. The look of the film, for instance, is kind of unpleasant; it looks like video, and feels cheap. And while Crawford does pretty well at holding his own with Pierce, the next tier of the cast is not quite at the same level. Some of that is likely by design, but not all.

"The Perfect Host" has its moments, but it appears that stretching it from short-film length has left marks. Pierce and Crawford do good work, but the end result is far from perfect.

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originally posted: 08/10/10 23:21:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/20/15 Langano Interesting premise falls a little short. 3 stars
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  01-Jul-2011 (R)
  DVD: 30-Aug-2011


  DVD: 30-Aug-2011

Directed by
  Nick Tomnay

Written by
  Nick Tomnay
  Krishna Jones

  David Hyde Pierce
  Clayne Crawford
  Helen Reddy
  Nathaniel Parker

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