Perfect Stranger is at once the smartest and quite literally dumbest movie I’ve ever seen. I’m not certain it was directed by James Foley, who also made Glengary Glen Ross and two Fifty Shades movies to keep up that intelligent/imbecilic duality, and writers and Todd Komarnicki and Jon Bokenkamp, or if it was all loaded into an artificial intelligence and told the words neo noir, giallo and erotic thriller. This was the best that mid 2000s computer moviemaking got.
Rowena Price (Halle Berry) and her researcher/dick in glass Miles Haley (Giovanni Ribisi) have just been kicked off the biggest story of their careers because powerful men can do that. As she drunkenly stumbles home, her old friend Grace Clayton (Nicki Aycox) finds her in the subway and asks for help taking down the man she just broke up with, married ad executive Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), giving her pages after pages — don’t print out the internet — of their sex chats.
Yes, this is a movie that hits two of my favorite genres: advertising movies and films in which technology is outdated on release.
Rowena goes undercover and gets a job at Harrison’s company H2A, which is really owned by his rich artist wife Mia (Paula Miranda). So here’s where I tell you that I’ve worked in advertising 27 years and no intern gets that access to their boss, even if she looks like Halle Berry, and the ad campaign that everyone is losing their minds over that H2A did for Victoria’s Secret — “I know Victoria’s Secret” — is the kind of work that gets killed before it even gets written on the wall of ideas that will soon get killed on the first day of the worst ideas.
It’s about this time that I’m reminded that James Foley also directed one of my favorite lunatic films, Fear, a movie in which Marky Mark fingerblasts Reese Witherspoon to The Sundays on the soundtrack while they ride a rollercoaster.
This movie somehow tops that as Berry uses her advanced and antiquated computer to simulate Willis’ voice on her computer so they can have the worst cybersex on the internet.
Back in October 2006, this movie took marketing to new levels, as Grace, Hil’s lesbian bodyguard Josie and his wife all introduced blogs dating back to September 2006, along with YouTube videos of the actresses reading their blogs in character.
That is more future leaning than the shrine to Berry that shows up late in the film, which had to have been animated in 1997. This entire film is like a quest for Berry to make something worse than Catwoman and better than Monster’s Ball and somehow pull both off flawlessly.
They shot three endings of this because they couldn’t figure out what worked best. Can you imagine that? Of course, in true giallo fashion, they went with the least likely suspect, which is the one fact that makes me consider this movie a success. It’s so audacious that again, I can’t decide if it’s the worst writing I’ve ever seen or the best. This movie confuses me so badly and I know I’ll have to watch it again and either hate or like it this time.