by Michael Dymmoch
I recently watched two movies with nearly identical titles. Both were billed as thrillers. Both had the requisite set pieces and reversals, talented direction and great casts. Filmed in NYC, Perfect Stranger (James Foley, 2007) featured Halle Berry and Bruce Willis. The film was a slick, well crafted Hollywood product that delivered on the promise of its trailer, but I’m glad I didn’t pay ten bucks to see it in a theater. I got the impression that the final outcome was determined by test audience reactions rather than character development. I doubt that I’ll remember the film six months from now, or bother watching it again.
Perfect Strangers (Gaylene Preston, 2003) starred Rachael Blake and Sam Neil and was made in New Zealand. Beyond budget and setting, it couldn’t have been more different. Though it starts predictably—girlfriends heading to a bar after work, it takes a turn for the bizarre when Neil asks Blake, “My place or yours?” After watching it, I felt that getting the DVD on Amazon was like finding an Ivan Albright at a garage sale.
The test of a great story is how it resonates after the fade-out. Do the images linger? Are the characters people you’ll continue to wonder about? Was the ending inevitable and satisfying? Do you feel you got a little something more?
If you’ve seen these films, how do you think they compare?
If you haven’t seen them, check ‘em out.