Perfect Strangers (2003)
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Review Date: September 04, 2003
Director: Gaylene Preston
Writer: Gaylene Preston
Producers: Gaylene Preston, Robin Laing
Rachael Blake as Melanie
Sam Neill as the Man
Joel Tobeck as Bill
A typical blue collar working lady with a drinking problem heads to a bar with her friends, notices a tall, dark and handsome gentleman with a twinkle in his eye and goes back to his place for a little session of one-on-one. When she wakes from her drunken stupor, she realizes that she may have bit off more than she could chew and that the man might actually have kidnapped her instead. Intriguing. "Now we are so happy, we do the Dance of Joy!"
Before you go thinking that Balki and his anal-retentive roommate from the 80s TV series of the same name finally decided to take their one-joke pony-act to the big screen, consider this film's actual plotline about a woman who picks up a stranger in a bar, goes back to his place and then slowly, but very surely, begins to realize that she may just have been kidnapped. Cool premise, right? That's nothing compared to what happens next, in a film that seems to transcend a number of genres, with twists and turns all over the place, as well as a deeper insight into various elements including human nature, loneliness, the psychology of man...and fear of commitment? An excellent film, acted superbly by its two leads, Sam Neill, actually playing something quite different and daring here, and Rachael Blake, an actress of whom I had never heard before this film, but who I am sure that we will hear from again. What I really liked most about this film was its full-out audacity to bring so many different variables together and make them all work somehow. Fifteen minutes into this film, I was thinking LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR and FATAL ATTRACTION, but it wasn't long before I looked at it from a dramatic point of view (sans the thrills), then romantic, then comedic, then psychological, till finally, it all seemed to come together as some sort of fable, a fantasy, but even then...with realism inserted throughout. Now before I make it sound like some complex algorithm or something, trust me, it's actually pretty straight-forward...it just doesn't follow the patented line that you might expect. I liked that a lot.

I also liked how it kept taking chances, playing with the audience's expectations, going one way, then another way...very cool. Of course, none of that would be interesting in the least if you weren't engaged by the story at its base, but the two lead characters are very well played here, and ultimately provide their respective characters with depth and a greater understanding behind their motives/actions. Lots of surprises, let me tell you. That being said, I too couldn't fully understand each of the moves made by the characters at certain points in the film, but the more I thought about it, the more it came together. Some may not be as fulfilled. Ultimately, the picture also sends out a message (other than the one about how girls shouldn't get plastered and go home with dudes whose names they don't know), which, I believe, speaks about truth, commitment and love. It doesn't shove its meaning down your throat or plop it on your lap, but the many circumstances in the film draw up a pretty decent picture of what it's all about (or better yet, what it all might mean to you) I also loved how it was shot (gorgeous island), appreciated the tunes spread about and was particularly impressed by its use of sound (especially during the film's opening credits-you got me!) If you're looking for thrills, probing questions, great acting, a meandering, but always engaging, plotline, as well as a unique vision that does everything it can to stray from the predictable, PERFECT STRANGERS is likely to jog your mind and fill your palette. How well does anyone really know anyone else and how much of what we do know is perception and/or our own extrapolated fantasies running amuck within their reality? Yeah, all that and a ball of wax.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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