Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Unseen #12: A Perfect Couple

Why’d I Buy It?: Came with Altman Boxset.

Why Haven’t I Watched It
?: See A Wedding, Thieves Like Us.

How Was It?: The film follows a middle aged Greek man, whose dominated by his tyrannical father and freak show of a family. A computer dating service improbably hooks him up with a young backup singer for the rock band “Keeping Them Off The Street.”

Pretty damned good. Flawed yes, but pretty good. It’s maybe the gentlest movie that Altman ever made. No one’s really a bad guy here, even the walking punch lines like Dooley’s family and the animal obsessed blind date he goes on are looked at with something closer to bemused wonderment then real anger. It’s also perhaps uncoincedently the most standard movie he’s ever made. Aside from a few scenes that are shot like signature Altman (particularly the bands rehearsal scenes), and his keen sense of humanity, there’s little to differentiate A Perfect Couple from just about every other romantic comedy made in the late seventies/early eighties.

The trick to it though is that you rather improbably come to like this mismatched neurotic couple. The leads are played by the great Paul Dooley (the dad in Sixteen Candles) with the air of someone who knows this could be their last shot at happiness and Marta Heflin with an endearing air of vulnerability. The film begins with some easy going gentle comic set pieces and the whole thing stays at that energy level. Like A Wedding, A Perfect Couple is little more then an appealing amble of a movie and those expecting Altman to make some kind of big statement will probably be disappointed. This is definitely Altman at his most low key.

There is one major major problem with the movie. It’s practically a musical. Well that’s no problem you say this is Altman, he made Nashville, Prairie Home Companion, The Company and Freaking Popeye for the love of God! He and music go together like Peas and Carrots combined with Peanut Butter And Chocolate! One would think so yes, but there is the minor detail that the music in A Perfect Couple is bad. No like really bad. Jessica Harper in Phantom Of The Paradise bad. Fearlessly combining the worst aspects of Folk, Disco, and Rock into a cocktail that will make the idea of slitting your wrists sound like being swept off by an angel compared to what you face.

Anyway A Perfect Couple works extraordinarily well, as a romance, character study, and slice of seventies LA life, just be sure to pack along cotton for your ears, and remember if you do accidentally hear some of the music please seek help before you do anything rash. This year alone Keeping Them Off The Streets has clamed one hundred and thirteen victims, please don’t become just another statistic.

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