Pink is the new black, 50 is the new 30 and, at the movies, confusion is the new suspense. The cause may be test screenings, moviemaking-by-committee or simple insecurity, but whatever the reason, Exhibit A is “Perfect Stranger,” a disorienting cocktail of illogic and hysteria that requires an 11th-hour soliloquy just to explain what’s happened. Sony/Revolution thriller should find an audience, thanks to Halle Berry, Bruce Willis and a frantically edited trailer. Whether that aud can find a rational plotline is anybody’s guess.
Berry — seemingly out to justify, or have revoked, the Oscar she won for “Monster’s Ball” — overacts throughout, and Willis gets to turn his smirk up to 10. But at least they attract some sympathy — Berry as New York Post-y reporter Rowena Price, who treats journalistic ethics the way a Rottweiler treats a shag carpet; and Willis as ad mogul Harrison Hill, who may or may not have killed Rowena’s childhood friend, Grace (Nicki Aycox).
Posing as a temp at Hill’s agency — while also working with fellow journalist Miles (Giovanni Ribisi) to connect Harrison’s e-mail to the late Grace’s inbox — Ro walks a wobbly tightrope of assumed identities and erotic innuendo, while having the occasional flashback about childhood sex abuse.
There’s clearly a lot going on, but nary a solid plot point amid this vortex of improbabilities. It’s admirable that “Perfect Stranger” keeps the viewer off-balance so much of the time, but the difference between a satisfying thriller and a hodgepodge of happenstance is whether one eventually can connect the mysterious dots. Helmer James Foley keeps about half the ingredients hidden until the last possible moment. And that’s hardly playing fair.
The pic looks good, and Antonio Pinto’s music is affecting, but Todd Komarnicki’s script thinks it’s far smarter than it is — the pseudo-profundity runs thick and rich, and what should be killer lines land like matzoh balls dropped off a 30-story building. “Everyone has secrets — until they’re found out” is Ro’s contribution to Western thought. “Perfect Stranger” proves it’s possible to be obvious and obscure at the same time.