15 – 91mins – 2013
PHONING IT IN
Headlined by recognised Hollywood names yet set in his native Amsterdam, Danish director Kees Van Oostrum’s debut feature is – a few eye rolls aside – a watchable enough presentation of modern strife. Sadly, it is also somewhat inconsistent, with the tone straddled indecisively between a dour and cynical relationship drama and a light and springy rom-com.
“You can’t blame a scorpion for stinging, now, can you?”
I recently saw Liev Schreiber battling the Antichrist in the much-derided 2006 remake of The Omen, but here he is battling the demon in his pants as married man James, who after nine years of cohabitation still can’t resist indulging in extramarital affairs. His all-too-forgiving wife, Nina (a charismatic Jeanne Tripplehorn) only snaps when she sees him canoodling with her so-called best friend and wife of James’ colleague.
Van Oostrum tries to present James as a philandering lothario, but Schreiber is the dull side of louche and completely fails to capture the “glow of freedom.” Left to his own devices and wearing a shapeless mac for ninety percent of the film as he wanders Amsterdam in a depressed fug, I struggled to see what women found so appealing. But given how many still unashamedly thrown themselves his way, maybe I just don’t get the attraction? When one young college graduate approaches with the pickup line “You fucked my mother,” I really started to question the morals of this city where anything goes.
“Do you think lying is an inevitable part of any relationship?”
With Nina torn between sticking by the man she loves and leaving his cheating ass high and dry, she formulates a crackpot plan to assess where his loyalty really lies: pose as a stranger on the end of the phone, earn his trust and get to the bottom of his infidelity issues. It is this childishly fanciful plot device, coupled with Jeff Cardoni’s all-too-optimistic score which really muddles the tone. Are we meant to legitimately engage with these troubled characters or laugh at their playful pursuits?
So A Perfect Man is less than pitch perfect, and Ray Donovan star Schreiber in particular struggles to shine with such a galling and unlikeable character, but as a debut feature it is not without potential and I was impressed with the courage of the not-quite-happy ending which presented a possible outcome but exited with the characters pondering their stock.
CR@B’s Claw Score: