Judge Clark Douglas' idea of a perfect ending usually involves a Nick Fury cameo.
Sometimes a perfect ending is not what you expect it to be.
Let's be honest: a glance at the cover of A Perfect Ending might understandably lead one to think that the film is some sort of lesbian-themed softcore erotica. I'm willing to bet that at least some of you clicked on this review because you were curious about how much steamy girl-on-girl action the film contained. Hey, it's human nature. However, let it be known that A Perfect Ending is actually a serious examination of an aging woman's sexual identity crisis, not a Cinemax-style buffet of titillation.
Rebecca Westridge (Barbara Niven, One Life to Live) is trapped in a loveless marriage to an oafish businessman (John Heard, Home Alone). Now that her children are grown, her life seems emptier than ever. After an evening of drinking, Rebecca makes a confession to some of her girlfriends: she's never had an orgasm before. Horrified at this news and determined to rectify the situation, Rebecca's friends hastily arrange a date with an escort service. "It'll be easier and more comfortable with a woman," they tell her. Rebecca is more than a little uncomfortable with the whole idea, but finally agrees to meet with the middle-aged call girl her friends have hired. However, when she gets to the hotel, she discovers that the older woman she was supposed to see has been replaced by a much younger woman named Paris (Jessica Clark, True Blood). The change distresses Rebecca and she runs back home.
This scene is repeated on multiple occasions throughout the film's first hour. It goes a little something like this:
Rebecca: "Hey, so I decided to come back."
Paris: "Great. Let's get started."
Rebecca: "I can't do this!" *runs away*
Rebecca: "I'm sorry I ran out last time. Let's do this."
Paris: "Sounds good."
Rebecca: "No! Leave me alone!" *runs away*
Rebecca: "I'm just nervous. But I'm ready."
Paris: "I understand."
Rebecca: "Stop pressuring me!" *runs away*
You get the idea. Honestly, this section of the film goes a little longer than it needs to—I appreciate the fact that the filmmakers want to emphasize just how difficult this situation is for Rebecca, but the idea could have been conveyed more efficiently. Still, Niven's performance is touching and convincing throughout. When she inevitably works up the courage to follow through on her plans, the love scene the film offers is presented in a manner that feels tender and non-exploitative (though it should be noted that the relative tastefulness is somewhat negated by the fact that the DVD prominently promotes the fact that an "extended love scene!" is among the supplements it offers). Niven has a particularly strong moment in the wake of that scene, in which she speaks candidly about regretting her decision to get breast implants in an effort to feel better about herself.
The film's third act is where things get exceptionally ambitious and messy. Things begin to shift into melodramatic territory, as writer/director Nicole Conn delivers a series of plot twists that are enjoyably unpredictable yet disappointingly convoluted. Considering that the film seems to want to be a serious examination of real-life issues, the venture into soap opera seems like a misguided move. It adds some welcome interest in the moment, yet leaves a slightly sour aftertaste.
The DVD transfer is solid, offering strong detail and satisfyingly deep blacks. While there were moments when I took issue with the cinematography (Conn uses extreme close-ups in nearly every scene in an attempt to be artful, but honestly, we only need so many detailed examinations of the lemon in a character's glass of water), the disc itself looks good. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track is also sturdy, delivering the dialogue and gentle score with clarity. Supplements include a handful of brief featurettes, the aforementioned extended love scene and a trailer.
A Perfect Ending is a significantly flawed film that runs about twenty minutes longer than it needs to, but deserves credit for its understated portrait of a older woman's attempt to explore her sexuality. Hardly essential, but better than you might expect.
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Studio: Wolfe Video
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