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Film review: Perfect Strangers – wordy relationship parable for the digital age

Seven people attend a dinner party and agree to share every phone text message and call they receive, exposing their secrets and lives with predictable results in this modern morality play

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 9:31pm

3/5 stars

A relationship parable for the digital age, Perfect Strangers pits our deceitful natures against our dependence on smartphones, to mostly engaging effect. Directed and co-scripted by Italian Paolo Genovese, it is a thoroughly entertaining ensemble drama, even if it calls for a major suspension of disbelief in order to accept that its guilty protagonists would agree to make its central conceit possible.

Here’s the game: as a dare to prove that they have nothing to hide from each other, various long-time friends and their middle-class significant others agree to share every message and put every incoming call on speakerphone over the course of a dinner party. The story is structured not unlike a horror movie; the texts and calls start out innocuous enough, before things escalate dramatically to expose the secrets and lies in relationships both familial and sexual. Virtually no one is spared humiliation.

The cast – including Marco Giallini and Kasia Smutniak as the hosts, Valerio Mastandrea and Anna Foglietta as a troubled couple, Alba Rohrwacher and Edoardo Leo as a pair of newlyweds, and Giuseppe Battiston as the perpetual outsider who arrives alone – is uniformly excellent.

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It’s a pity, though, to see Genovese squander the potential of his morality play by focusing most of the worst revelations on his characters’ sex life. It’s just not very intriguing to find out who is screwing who.

Perfect Strangers opens on January 12

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