Film review : Perfect Stranger.
By Mick LaSalle Stars: Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Florencia Lozano,
Nicki Aycox, Paula Miranda and Giovanni RibisiDirected by: James
FoleyPerfect Stranger isn't the best movie Halle Berry has ever
appeared in, but it's one of her best showcases, easily her best
since Monster's Ball, for which she won an Oscar. To see her here
is to realize how disappointing her feature films since Monster's
Ball have been: A James Bond flick, a pair of X-Men outings, a few
others. Monster's Ball showed the breadth of Berry's talent,
but there has been little else until now. Berry has the gift of anger.
She also has the gift of seeming justified when she's angry. Her
sense of moral outrage runs deep, and it's present in the first
scene, in which she gains entry into a Republican senator's office,
posing as a sympathetic supporter. Turns out the senator, who has been
an enemy of gay rights, is himself gay, and she has the proof.
She's a reporter, and she's about to run with the story.Berry
is even better in the following scene, in which she's in a bar,
drinking and celebrating with her computer-wiz partner, Miles (Giovanni
Ribisi), and her editor walks over with the bad news: The publishers
have quashed the gay senator story. Watch Berry's intensity of
focus. Watch her technique, as she transitions from triumphant
drunkenness to sober realization to righteous rage. It's all
beautifully accomplished but also carefully considered. The woman she
plays, Rowena, has good reason for the anger beneath her polished
surface. Berry understands it and gradually reveals it.The early scenes
just set the tone. Rowena is already angry when word comes in that a
childhood friend has been murdered, and that, in the months leading up
to her death, she'd been seeing a rich big shot and threatening to
go to his wife. The evidence isn't enough to present to the police,
but it is enough for Rowena to infiltrate the big shot's
advertising business. Rowena gets a job as an office temp, and it
doesn't take long before the boss (Bruce Willis) notices her. It
takes about two minutes, which, considering how gorgeous Berry looks
throughout Perfect Stranger, probably constitutes a world record.
That's the other thing. At 40 years old, Berry has never looked
better on screen, and Perfect Stranger finds her in an ideal place--not
only in complete control of her technique, but with a cultivated
understanding of her own charm and appeal as a screen entity.To see
Perfect Stranger is to wish for a more sophisticated vehicle for a film
actress this good, but actors--and audiences--take what they can get.
This is better than most. She's supported by a decent cast, with
dialogue that's coarse in the ways that people are coarse, and by
consistently interesting and idiosyncratic character performances that
speak well of James Foley's directorial hand. Berry's
immediate co-stars are especially good, and contribute mightily to the
strange combination of geniality and menace that pervades the picture.
Willis, who has been pretty scruffy in his recent outings, cleans up
nicely as the smug essence of a rich big shot, with his smooth smile,
smooth walk and very smooth tailored suits. Excellent toupee, too: It
looks like Willis' own hair, circa 1994.In a way, Ribisi is even
more arresting as Rowena's pal, partner and loved-starved admirer.
He could be a great guy, and he could be a dangerous creep. Ribisi plays
it right down the middle, and he does it without being coy and holding
back. Like Berry, he plays every moment full out, showing us everything,
and it's up to us to decide what to make of it. nSfgateFilm review
: Perfect Stranger
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