Stranger than fiction: Berry, Willis pair for B-movie thriller

Perfect Stranger

on April 13, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
From the opening moments of Perfect Stranger, when New York Courier reporter Rowena Price (Halle Berry) strides into the office of a conservative U.S. Congressman, unrecognized because she writes under the Boys Club byline David Shaye, the question of identity is at play. Set partly in the anonymous social spheres of cyberspace, where anyone can adopt any persona they please, and partly in the world of advertising, where reality is repackaged as a perfect product, the picture posits that no one, not even one's closest friends, can be trusted to be who they say they are.

Undermined yet again by a powerful man with friends in high places, Rowena calls it quits when her latest expose is pulled from the front page. She smells another story, however, when her childhood friend Grace (Nicki Aycox) reveals her online affair with Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), an ad exec who owes his success to his father-in-law's considerable fortune and so can't afford a divorce due to infidelity. When Grace turns up dead, Rowena decides to go undercover as a temp and, with the help of high-tech geek Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), expose Hill as the philandering murderer. As their investigation progresses, however, additional suspects surface, including Hill's wife and, eventually, Miles.

A quirky character actor whose angular features play well on film, Ribisi fares best. Transitioning from a sympathetic assistant with an unrequited crush on Rowena to a possible stalker with a creepy secret room to a diligent researcher who's the first to crack the case, his performance requires the audience to constantly adjust its perceptions. In comparison, Willis gives a one-note performance as a womanizing, power-hungry ad exec with a killer instinct—in the boardroom and the bedroom.

Berry, on the other hand, operates in not one gear but two: manipulatively seductive or in a hysterical rage. Even without gratuitous Swordfish -esque nudity—although there is a wanton use of the f word here—the Oscar winner is well-cast for her mature sensuality, but her performance goes from zero to 60 in less than a second. The woman seems downright bipolar.

A-list stars, at-times sharp dialogue by screenwriter Todd Komarnicki and slick production by director James Foley mask the fact that Perfect Stranger is ultimately a B movie with a bland title, histrionic acting and a ridiculous twist ending. Distributor: Sony
Cast: Halle Berry, Bruce Willis and Giovanni Ribisi
Director: James Foley
Screenwriter: Todd Komarnicki
Producer: Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, some disturbing violent images and language
Running time:
Release date: April 13, 2007

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