PERFECT STRANGERS (2016)
Seven long-time friends get together for a dinner. When they decide to share with each other the content of every text message, email and phone call they receive, many secrets start to unveil and the equilibrium trembles.
Review by Louise Keller:
Squirm a little; squirm a lot... Relationships falter and friendships are shredded in this techno-relevant Italian comedy of errors in which the mobile phone is revealed to be 'the black box of our lives'. Nominated for eight David di Donatello Awards and winner of two, including best film and best screenplay, director and co-writer Paolo Genovese has fun with the concept of exploring the consequences, when long time friends lay their phones on the dinner table and allow the ensuing phone calls, text and Whats Ap messages to be fodder for scrutiny.
The sensational issues range from predictable ones about infidelity to those about sexuality, parental relationships, loss of virginity, pregnancy, parenthood, ex-spouse relationships, illicit fantasies and insecurities, reinforcing the fact that everyone potentially has a secret life - or at least a secret or two. There are surprises of course, ironies and confrontations as the guests at the dinner party for eight (but at which there are only seven) find themselves exposed and vulnerable when thrust out of their comfort zone.
There is enough variety in the revelations to make pretty much every audience member squirm somewhat in their seats as we share the feelings of guilt, angst and recognition. The fact that our mobile phone is such a personal and pivotal tool in each of our lives is reinforced - in the unlikely case that we had forgotten.
All the performances ring true while the central plot point involving the swapping of two identical phone between their respective owners in a bid to protect the family man, is central. The ramifications are unexpected. The eclipse of the moon takes place during this same evening; the moon is symbolically out of the shadow by the time all the revelations have taken place and resolutions are underway. It may not be perfect - there are a couple of small errors and the characters are not altogether likeable. In fact no-one comes out squeaky clean. But that's par for the course. Whether or not you buy the resolution is another issue.
It's an entertaining piece that touches raw nerves, offers black humour and throws caution to the wind as anything and everything goes when it comes to exposing the truth.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The irony of the title underlines the film's intent, showing how little we know of each other, close friends of long standing included. The delicious promise is that this dinner party will be a feast for the audience, a series of embarrassing revelations which are entertaining if you are in your comfy cinema seat, but traumatic if you are at the table. This is the slip on the banana peel writ extra large.
The screenplay is a collaboration between five writers, who bring their collective life experiences to the task, pooling their lived or observed embarrassments into a single evening among a single group of seven friends. The central device of the plot sees two of the friends switch phones for the protection of one of them. It all ends in tears, but not before a hoot of a time is had by all ... of us.
The challenge for the filmmakers is to keep the tension and make the dinner party appear to take place in real time, all in the confines of an apartment - a rather lovely, large apartment. This is superbly designed with a keen eye for detail and plays a major role in generating a real sense of place, without fuss.
That it works so well is laudable, and much of the credit goes to cinematographer Fabricio Lucci and editor Consuelo Catucci. Propelled by impeccable performances, Perfect Strangers is a dramatically entertaining work, textured with painful truths and elevated by genuine humour. It's not flawless, with one significant continuity error and a murky resolution which blunts the drama of the last act, but it is neither frivolous nor flippant, allowing the characters to fill out with each unexpected text or call on the reviled mobile phones, referred to as the black boxes of our lives.
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PERFECT STRANGERS 2016 (M)
CAST: Giuseppe Battiston, Anna Foglietta, Marco Giallini, Edoardo Leo, Valerio Mastandrea, Alba Rohrwacher, Kasia Smutniak, Benedetta Porcaroli, Elisabetta De Palo, Tommaso Tatafiore, Noemi Pagotto
PRODUCER: Marco Belardi
DIRECTOR: Paolo Genovese
SCRIPT: Filippo Bologna, Paolo Costella, Paolo Genovese, Paola Mammini, Rolando Ravello
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Fabricio Lucci
EDITOR: Consuelo Catucci
MUSIC: Maurizio Filardo
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chiara Balducci
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 26, 2017