Case Number 05519: Small Claims Court


First Look Pictures // 2003 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees (Retired) // November 4th, 2004

The Charge

Love means having to say you're sorry. Constantly.

The Case

Perfect Opposites is just what its title suggests: a forgettable little romantic dramedy that thinks it's more clever and original than it is. The title itself, a dreary and predictable attempt at cuteness, should set off warning bells for the experienced movie viewer. It has the dubious merit of being a more appropriate title than A Piece of My Heart, the film's original name, which rather suggests gruesome dismemberment. But then, a little violence and gore might have improved this tired film.

And tired it is, despite the almost desperate perkiness of its stars, Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) and Martin Henderson (The Ring), and despite the plucky efforts of strong supporting actors like Jennifer Tilly (Bullets Over Broadway) and Joe Pantoliano (Memento). Everything about this film feels threadbare from use: the gimmick of having the protagonist narrate his life in voiceover while manipulating the playback of events; the impetuous courtship of the two characters, followed by the inevitable reckoning; the purportedly frank talk about relationships; and especially the running theme about the differences between the sexes. The filmmakers seem to think they're telling us something we don't know when they reveal that men and women are -- believe it or not -- not the same! They offer this stale insight with all the misguided pride of a cat presenting its owner with a half-eaten mouse. Consequently, the many jokes based on this feeble foundation come off as trite and unfunny, and the dramatic content fails to involve us because we feel that if these characters had an ounce of intelligence or insight, they wouldn't be having the problems we're forced to watch them endure.

Our story concerns Drew and Julia, who meet in a mundane fashion at college. He pursues her. She allows herself to be pursued. After graduation, she gives up her opportunity for a good job to follow him to L.A., where he plans to become a big cheese in entertainment law. He gets a man-crush on a movie star client and hangs out with him too much, so Julia becomes lonely and bored. He's self-absorbed; she's clingy. They fight. None of this is particularly fun, and once their relationship gets really rocky, it ceases to be entertainment and becomes a dreary slog. It's so obvious what their problem is -- that they got into a relationship before either was ready for it, and now both are continuing to live as if they are still single -- that it's hard to have sympathy for either. It also doesn't help that the movie tries to present them as fun, sexy, irresistible charmers, when they are simply not very interesting people. Aside from being so physically perfect that they might have been genetically engineered by a casting committee, there's nothing distinctive about either. In the moments when they're supposed to be heart-rending, they're just tiresome. I personally didn't care whether they stayed together or broke up; I just wanted them to get on with it so the movie would end.

The supporting characters are the usual "colorful" and "wacky" types (meaning that they are less gorgeous physical specimens than the leads and that they have more of the jokes, such as they are). These unlucky actors do their best, but with such a trite and predictable screenplay, they can't make things much better. Joe Pantoliano has the excruciating role of the belligerent, eccentric boss who dresses like an ice cream cone; we can only hope that he switched agents after this film. Drew's college roommate, in the tradition of romcom roommates, is a quirky slob who runs off at the mouth. Jennifer Tilly and Artie Lange, as the fun-lovin' young marrieds, are probably the least embarrassing to watch, but they still deserve better material. There's even an adorable fluffy dog to ratchet up the cute factor; shamelessly, the screenplay puts him in danger in one scene, but even that doesn't melt our hearts. If potential peril to a shaggy, perky-eared little dog doesn't make an audience care, the film is really in trouble.

Perfect Opposites bills itself as "refreshingly and sometimes painfully honest," which seems to mean that there are jokes about condoms and blow jobs, and that it shows our lead couple arguing on more than one occasion. They do argue about real-life things -- money, sex, careers, lack of time together -- but none of their spats seem real or spontaneous; one can hear the scratch of the screenwriter's pencil checking them off a list as each one takes place. That isn't to say that there aren't some enjoyable moments. Sometimes the dialogue does ring true, and there are a few jokes that fly. But overall this material is so familiar that there seems to be no point in watching it; not only has this story been told many times before, but it's been told much better. Even the eleventh-hour attempt to do something original and unexpected with the plot backfires: Instead of evoking an admiring "Wow! I didn't see that coming!" it feels like a cheat. After being so completely predictable for 85 minutes, a formula film like this has no excuse for suddenly veering into a different direction.

For all its shortcomings in story and character, the audiovisual transfer is quite fine: You can see every salon-applied highlight on the protagonists' hair and hear every hackneyed relationship cliché with bell-like clarity. From the look of the film, one wouldn't guess it would be so bland and trite; it has the bright, pretty surface gloss of every self-respecting romantic comedy, and it might not be so disappointing if one watched it with the volume off. Believe me, you'll still be able to follow the story, and that way you won't have to listen to Drew's increasingly smarmy narration.

The only extras here are the film's trailer and a trailer for another First Look film. All I can say is, thank goodness -- I can't imagine having to sit through a director's commentary or a making-of featurette on this ho-hum little copycat of a film.

The defendant is declared guilty of preciousness, of abusing Road Runner pop-culture references, and of forcing us to watch yet another heartbroken guy standing in the rain. Now get out of my courtroom!

Review content copyright © 2004 Amanda DeWees; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile
Studio: First Look Pictures
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* Spanish

Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Trailer

* IMDb