Perfect Stranger
Directed by James Foley

Written by Todd Komarnicki, based on a story by Jon Bokenkamp

Starring Halle Berry, Bruce Willis


Perfect Stranger

The question is why do A-list actors sign on to appear in Z-list movies? The answer, of course, is right in the middle, and it's spelled: M-O-N-E-Y. There's certainly no other reason why Bruce Willis would have agreed to be in the new film "Perfect Stranger." He can show up on the set every day, he doesn't need to create any kind of character, he doesn't have to do any stunts, he doesn't even have to wear his usual hairpiece. He just has to narrow his eyes, deliver the lines and go home at the end of the day to count his money.

But Halle Berry, his costar, though, has a bigger problem. In addition to her own character, she has to pretend to be two other women - one live, the other one just in a chat-room; and to watch Ms. Berry try to be an actress - a real actress, creating a character whom we just might believe in - is about as painful as poking yourself in the eye. It's as though she's embarrassed at just being beautiful and thinks she has to play against her looks in order to be believable. What happened to the woman who did so well in "Monster's Ball?"

The story of "Perfect Stranger" is simple, if bizarre: Berry is Rowena Price, a reporter at a version of the scandal-sheet New York Post. Her childhood friend Grace is murdered - something about having belladonna poured into her eye, and who knew that that could kill? - and it just might be that handsome advertising mogul Bruce Willis did it. So Rowena, with the help of her computer-hacker friend Miles, played by a typecast Giovanni Ribisi, finds out that Willis was apparently Grace's last lover and just might be her muderer. So she goes to work as an office temp at Bruce Willis's ad agency, under another name, and then becomes yet a third person in a chat room, hoping to snare Willis when he responds. Meanwhile, what's that skeleton in Rowena's closet? Is it something to do with child sexual abuse? As Variety's critic said in his review of the film, "Pink is the new black, 50 is the new 30, and, at the movies, confusion is the new suspense." How true.

As you can imagine, there's a lot of hacking into computers, a bit of sex now and again, and many outfits for Berry to wear. "Perfect Stranger" was directed by James Foley and shot in New York, though he's managed to turn it into generic town USA - I thought it was shot in Vancouver, and I'm from New York. The film's other problem is that it saves its real revelations for what amounts to the very last shot, as though it wants us to smack our heads in shock when we learn the real - underline real - truth. But by then we just don't care.