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Review: "Perfect Strangers" (2016)


Title: Perfect Strangers (2016)

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Paolo Genovese

Stars: Giuseppe Battiston, Anna Foglietta, Marco Giallini, Edoardo Leo, Valerio Mastandrea, Alba Rohrwacher, and Kasia Smutniak.

Bias: Initially, I thought it might be Coherence (2013), but with fewer colliding alternate realities.

Grade: B-

In a Nutshell:

On the night of an eclipse, plastic surgeon Rocco (Marco Giallini) and his therapist wife Eva (Kasia Smutniak) invite their five close friends to a dinner at their apartment. The first guests to arrive are Carlotta (Anna Foglietta) and Lele (Valerio Mastandrea), a weary couple who have been together for years. Then come Bianca (Alba Rohrwacher) and Cosimo (Edoardo Leo), a newly-married couple trying to have children. Lastly, there’s Peppe (Giuseppe Battiston), a divorcée who’s recently lost his job as a gym teacher.

The dinner begins as a nice, ordinary gathering between friends. But then Eva suggests an unusual game: everybody must put their phones up on the table. Whenever a player gets a call, they have to put it on speaker so everybody can hear it. Emails, texts, and WhatsApp messages are all to be read aloud as well.

Though some of the characters are reluctant at first, everybody agrees to join in. The first couple of calls and texts are light-hearted enough, but the subsequent secrets and revelations lead to a surprising question: How well do these friends actually know each other?

The Critique:

Much of Perfect Strangers unfolds over a dinner table. Occasionally, the characters will move into another room or the balcony, but the movie largely takes place in Eva and Rocco’s apartment. There are also brief scenes showing the other characters before and after the dinner party.

The single location could have made for a very dull movie, but the excellent acting and script kept me engaged. As you might expect from a premise like this, there are plenty of dirty secrets to go around. If not all likeable, everybody in the cast was at least interesting.

Shout-out:

Props to Genovese and the other four screenwriters who wrote this movie. So many writers might have churned out an incoherent mess, but the result of their shared labor was two David di Donatello awards in the best script and best film categories.

To Go, to Rent, or to Netflix:

Go see this movie before Hollywood inevitably butchers it with an American remake.

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