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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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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:May 15, 2007
Words:632
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