Perfect Sense (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Perfect Sense (2011)

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Question - how do you bring an audience to care about a romance in the throes of plot magic?  That mysterious, screenplay-dependent substance has long been the fuel opposites attract plot-lines since cinema sprawled into existence.  I love a good melodrama where the audacity of lovers goes against the machinations and sheer randomness of existence, but I have my limits.  There are films like Perfect Sense, which can't even build that honest attraction to begin with thanks to that plot magic that makes the film possible.

The lovers in question, a chef played by Ewan McGregor and a epidemiologist played by Eva Green, are already stretching the point of romantic credulity during their meet-cute.  He is smoking a cigarette and announces himself as a chef, which in the world of this film amounts to moving fast and talking loudly into an elastic camera while holding a fish.  The chef fares a little better than the scientist, whose screen time in her profession consists mostly of sitting around her improbably handsome scientist cohorts while intoning something bad is happening.

Yes, I would agree if everyone across the world is losing each of their primary senses in rapid succession over a course of a few weeks, something "bad" is happening.

So, while we're dealing with the world's broadest chef and most exposition-friendly information-dispensing scientist, we have to deal with the question of why they're in love to begin with.  The movie is also a romance combined with a world ending tragedy, so where's the basis of the attraction?  She decides to go on about her dad with little provocation the second time they meet and his seduction strategy consists entirely of "I have tattoos and am sad."

The world is ending, of course it's sad, but according to the timeline of the movie they've met after the senses-robbing disease has already started ravaging the globe.  So they aren't themselves when they fall in love to begin with.  At a basic storytelling level, we are meeting two characters who are supposed to be in love and we know they can't be honest versions of who they were at any point because of a globally spanning disease robbing everyone of the ability to be themselves.  At the core of love is, for many, the idea that you have a mutual understanding of the other that stretches beyond what each considers normal understanding of other people and into something deeper.

Here we have two people acting totally crazy at random intervals thanks to a plot controlling disease that forces them to eat soap on cue.  There's no love to begin with because what trust is there is fueled by a disease, not too people feeling an intense connection, but an infection neither has control over.  Love can feel like that and often time we see the good vibes of new lovers alternately annoying and rubbing off on otherwise supportive friends and acquaintances.  If the film ended in a planetary orgy then I can see how the plot-centered disease conceit might work, instead there's darkness and the antithesis of "show, don't tell."

Perfect Sense wants to spell out its themes so clearly for you it comes across as a handicapped mongrel.  Green details in long monologues about how touch and sense is evaporating in a world gone mad.  Not so strangely enough this coincides directly with the world going mad at losing its senses.  Then there are several sequences featuring cooking where the earnest if obvious narration continues to intone how cooking is like life and the spices will come back.

There's no reason to care about this film.  The surface-level visuals and narration traffic in Metaphor 101.  The camera work and cinematography lifts directly from the existentialist masters of the past without adding anything in return.  I like Ewan McGregor, he struggles a bit after his split from Danny Boyle but still finds time to star in something like I Love You, Phillip Morris.  Eva Green is also pretty good.  She's taken on the role Scarlett Johansson left behind after she decided to star in all those Marvel movies as the smartest woman amongst all the stupid boys and men.

The technological craft is a different story.  Director David Mackenzie shows he has seen a soft lens or Bergman film or two during his time but still hasn't crafted those influences into a narrative as interesting visually as it is in the writing.  At the same time, screenwriter Kim Fupz Akeson hasn't grasped that earth shattering plot events do more than break up romances.

I'm not sure anyone learned a lesson here.  I'll take the same cue and just forget I saw the whole thing, soap eating and all.

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Perfect Sense (2011)

Directed by David Mackenzie.
Screenplay written by Kim Fupz Akeson.
Starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green.

Posted by Andrew

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