Sony // 1985 // 120 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // July 19th, 2002
Where love is a dance and beauty is everything.
Adam Lawrence, a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, is gunning for a key interview in what may be the biggest story of his career. While finagling a meeting with Joe McKenzie, a corporate tycoon accused of cocaine smuggling, he stumbles upon another story: the growing trend of health clubs as the "singles bars of the '80s." Following his instincts, he travels to Los Angeles and begins hanging out at the Sports Connection. There he meets a wide range of body conscious characters: Linda, a woman so desperate for attention that she'll do anything, and anyone, for acceptance; Sally and Roger, a couple more in love with the image of, than with, each other; and Jessie, a star aerobics instructor with a complicated past and a hatred for reporters. Eventually, Adam gets much more than he bargained for, as both stories begin to unravel. The tycoon agrees to meet with him and offers startling information about US government involvement. Adam falls in love with Jessie, and learns her provocative secret. When the FBI subpoenas his tapes, and Jessie discovers the real, ridiculing angle to his spa story, integrity and ethics are swept away in feelings of betrayal and threats of contempt of court. It all comes down to who and what Adam will protect -- his source, his integrity, or his job.
Investigative journalism is cinematic gold. Films like All the President's Men or The Insider can turn dogged determination and a multi-level conspiracy into an intense, provocative thriller. Perfect misses intrigue by a couple of beats, even though it's an occasionally engaging look at a charismatic and determined journalist and his methodology. Still, there is an atmosphere of superfluousness to the story on the screen. It's not the result of casting. Everyone here is (to paraphrase the title) flawless in their performances. John Travolta is especially good, showing that, in films like Blow Out, he makes an intriguing moralistic center within a swirling den of mystery. Jamie Lee Curtis exudes youth, beauty, and sex in a role that requires her to be a specialist in all three. Even supporting players like Lorraine Newman and Marilu Henner, though given minimal screen time, furnish their roles with humanizing characterization. Only Jann Werner, real life founder of Rolling Stone magazine (oddly enough NOT playing himself), gives an uncomfortable, unprofessional turn as, well, an editor for Rolling Stone (you'd think he'd have this part nailed!).
It's the material that's at fault here. The film is based on the work of real life journalist Aaron Latham. He, along with director Jim Bridges and Travolta worked on Urban Cowboy. So it seemed like a natural fit. But the dated subject matter just doesn't work here. People sculpting their bodies both physically and medically to achieve an aesthetic ideal may have been shocking in 1985, but in 2002, society is awash in breast enlargements, body-shaping gadgets, and warped health rants. The "serious" story, the McKenzie (read: DeLorean) scandal, is handled so haphazardly that you don't know how Adam became involved or who the main players really are. The screenplay is constantly jerking the audience from storyline to character, dilemma to false ending with little regard for how this undermines the drama, or the ability to identify with the principles. While making some valid points about journalistic ethics and the editorial honesty of the press, there are just too many scenes of sweaty people gyrating like overworked porn stars. Surely this is just meant as eye candy to capitalize on Travolta's (and Curtis') ability to move and groove since extended scenes of jumping jacks and squat thrusts do not make captivating entertainment set pieces or riveting melodrama.
Columbia TriStar again earns a whole compost heap full of demerits for releasing this DVD with such an atrocious pan and scam transfer. Director Bridges' framing is mostly in medium shot, and the disc leaves the audience constantly wondering who and what characters are responding to, and why important action is occurring off screen. This is also a compressed mess. You will see the speckled, tell tale signs in all the night scenes and whenever characters step into the shadows. Just awful! The two-channel Dolby Surround pushes the bass way up for Jermaine Jackson's "revenge of the '80s" pseudo pop score. The dialogue, however, is mixed far too low. With no other extras besides a horrendously washed out trailer for the film (and another for, of all things, Blind Date), this is further proof that C/TS doesn't give two royal farts for its films, the DVD format, or the consumer. While not a horrid film by any stretch, Perfect it is not. It takes an intriguing notion, shatters it, and scatters the pieces to the four winds, burying its passé, shifting storylines in waves of human perspiration. Anyone requiring proof that Travolta needed Pulp Fiction ten years later should look no further than this disjointed dissection of ab crunching and buns of steel.
Review content copyright © 2002 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailers
* Interactive Menus