Polychrome Pictures // 2004 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // August 3rd, 2006
Some desperately want love. Some desperately need love. Some become desperate over the fear they'll lose love.
It looks like it would be just another of those drippy love-gone-wrong dramas that circulate around the Lifetime and Oxygen channels. Don't be mistaken, though -- this film has a style, a purpose, and method that immediately distracts you from lazily popping ice cream bon-bons throughout its running time.
John Totterson (Adrian Grenier, Entourage) is a troubled young man. He's plagued by nightmares of loss, desolation, and violence. He's unable to gain understanding of his disturbing visions despite the attempts of his therapist, Dr. Weiss (Polly Draper, Making Mr. Right) to explain his past as the key to his emotional affliction. John suppresses the fact that his natural mother released him to a foster home at the age of two and that his subsequent foster father physically and sexually abused him. Yet, through his therapy, John wonders if it's love that's the missing element and that a loving relationship may fill his inner emptiness. He's soon desperate to make a connection yet fearful that he may further expose his inner vulnerabilities.
Sarah (Leila Arcieri, Daddy Day Care, Son of the Beach) is a beautiful young woman who also feels unfulfilled, lacking an emotional bond with a compatible mate. Always disappointed that her hopeful dates wind up being wholly unfulfilling, she doubts whether she can ever find the right man.
Then she walks into the computer shop where John works and, despite his initial reluctance, the young man begins to court Sarah. His deep respect and caring for Sarah convince her that she may have finally found her perfect fit. The two are swept up in a whirlwind romance in which John proclaims she's been the absolute answer to everything he has ever dreamed of. Then, the nightmares return. John resists explaining his emotional unrest to Sarah, yet his disturbing dreams begin to manifest themselves through his growing domination over his now fiancée. As John's insistent manner becomes pervasive, Sarah now wonders if her husband-to-be isn't exactly who she thought -- hoped -- he would be. But with the special new bond they share between them, will Sarah need to find a way out of her fast-deteriorating predicament without becoming a victim to John's dangerously erratic behavior?
Only the sophomore directing effort from writer/producer/actor Ron Brown (A Bedtime Story), A Perfect Fit is so well crafted and realized that it suggests the man behind the camera is skilled beyond his years. Appearing as Brown's first feature film and screened at numerous independent and international film festivals, this picture serves as another example of good filmmaking and where to find it. Unlike the Hollywood bombast that shortchanges sensibility for sensationalism, A Perfect Fit has a story to tell and tells it well. It benefits from deliberate pacing that is patient enough to properly unfold its details without becoming tiresomely expository and undermining its intended suspense. Brown knows the language of film (he goes so far as to cite Hitchcock's famous bomb-under-the-table recipe for suspense), and he exhibits a firm yet comfortable grasp of cinematic storytelling. His script is concise but never rushed. His characters are properly dimensional yet purposefully obscured in a way that allows their reveals to appear natural and compelling over the 89 minutes we spend with them. The film never tips its hand too soon and refrains from leaving us feeling disappointed after the final act.
Adrian Grenier delivers an effectively unsettled performance, immediately giving John a little-boy-lost appeal that is darkly offset by a bottled-up explosiveness. As John, his performance is highly believable and progresses realistically through his joy over having found love and the subsequent panic and pursuit when he fears this, too, will be taken from him. Of course, Grenier's performance works so well thanks to the perfect counterpart played by Leila Arcieri. She's introduced as a staggeringly beautiful yet well-grounded young lady who could easily take her pick of eligible bachelors if only she could discover whatever it is that will signal arrival of "Mr. Right." She's appropriately cautious upon meeting John but is swept off her feet by his doting and devotion. As John's temperament begins to sour, she unfolds her own growing sense of disappointment, disdain, and distrust. She becomes a victim of John's possessiveness -- a fact that she realizes as she struggles to decide whether this is really the right relationship for her. Both actors deliver convincing performances and these, along with the intriguing storyline, make this a film that's difficult to resist.
A Perfect Fit has been released to DVD thanks to Polychrome Pictures. The transfer, originally shot with high-definition equipment, is remarkably detailed, even to a fault. The picture maintains a consistent level of noticeable grain that never quite prevents involvement in the narrative yet is certainly difficult to disregard if you're one who savors a well-rendered image. If one were to be forgiving, this grain could be regarded as "texture" that either offers additional depth or an unsettling grit to the story being told. The color palette is slightly muted but the contrast and black levels are well managed to avoid obscuring any detail. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen format.
The audio comes by way of a very clean and crisp Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix. Naturally, this isn't the sort of picture that features significant directional effects so the aural information remains largely confined to the front channels. The score by Michael Montes -- a hauntingly minimal composition for piano and strings -- makes good use of the rear channels to appropriately involve the viewer in the emotional experiences of the characters.
As for extras, this disc features a brief behind-the-scenes featurette in which Brown, Grenier, and Arcieri are interviewed on separate occasions, sometimes on set and other times in a sit-down environment. Also included are a theatrical trailer, a brief still gallery, and some biographical notes. Not a stellar showing of bonus features but suitable to the feature at hand.
It's very possible that A Perfect Fit may elicit ire in female viewers as they witness the overt control John asserts over Sarah. His affectionate insistence wears thin quickly. His piercing inquisitiveness over Sarah's whereabouts becomes maddening. His physical dominance, ultimately, is immediately insufferable. Despite his deep blue eyes and youthful attractiveness, John embodies what most women fear about dating. Therefore, it's conceivable and entirely understandable that female viewers may feel their own personal anxieties and vulnerabilities are being played here for dramatic effect. Yes, director Brown is doing exactly this, yet his method is honest enough, never wallowing in cinematic exploitation nor sensationalism, that the situation he lays before us is genuine, unsettling though it may be. For that reason alone, A Perfect Fit deserves to be seen. It shouldn't be shunned nor derided simply because it exposes a primal fear in women (and likely in men if the orientation were to be altered) since this is its testament to its skilled writer/director. It exists as a tale with a moral of sorts yet its delivery is decidedly subtle -- and likely all the more effective for it. John's actions are anything but subtle yet his motivations -- his personal demons of a childhood gone awry and his failed attempts to master them -- are not so cut and dry. Just as Brown may have us coaxed into rooting for John's vanquishing, we're subsequently gripped by the fact that his is a situation that was never of his own doing and, as a victim himself, he elicits a rightful amount of pity and empathy in the end. We look at Sarah, then, and debate whether her eagerness to find love partially obscured her good judgment as she was the more amorously aggressive of the two at the outset. We shouldn't weigh John's plight over Sarah's and it would be reckless to suggest the young woman brought this upon herself -- she certainly didn't. To that end, it's understandable that some viewers would want to exact revenge upon the overbearing young man but, by the final frame, Brown poses a predicament to us all, we who may have judged harshly in one direction or another, leaving us to ponder just who's to blame (if any "one" can be singled out).
To those who may see A Perfect Fit as just another story of abuse, a deeper look will reveal that it achieves its greatest work through its carefully metered revelations and reactions and exists as excellent storytelling.
While the situation is unpleasant, A Perfect Fit is highly recommended for its method and execution. And, like some of its off-Hollywood peers, it arrives to remind us that good films are still being made, you may just have to look a little harder to find them. If you do, your effort will prove to have been well worth it.
Review content copyright © 2006 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Polychrome Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Featurette: Behind the Scenes of A Perfect Fit
* Theatrical Trailer
* Still Gallery