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The Perfect Host (2010)

Magnolia Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/30/2011

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/24/2011

We are used to projects jumping from one sort of media to the next. TV shows become movies, movies become TV shows, etc. In the past, a good number of Broadway plays became feature films. The 60s and 70s were littered of samples of this, but this doesn't happen as much anymore. Recently, movies, such as Hairspray, have been transformed into stage shows. Is this easily done when movies can be more technically advanced than plays? I don't know, but every now and then, I see a movie which I can easily imagine as a play. The structure of The Perfect Host was very reminiscent of a stage production.

The Perfect Host opens with John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) fleeing through the street of Los Angeles, clearly favoring one foot. We learn that he has robbed a bank and is on the run. John, desperate for a place to hide, cons his way into the home of Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce), by claiming to know one of Warwick's friends. Warwick is preparing for a dinner party, but, being a gentleman, offers John some wine and assistance. (John concocts a story about having been mugged.) When a radio news report describes the robbery, John loses his cool, threatening Warwick. However, John has no idea that he's come into the wrong house and Warwick isn't what he seems. Warwick's dinner party will go off without a hitch and John will find himself in the middle of a deadly game.

The bulk of The Perfect Host takes place in Warwick's house, and are centered around dialogue and minimal movement, thus it seems that the movie could translate into a play. But, this isn't to imply that the movie is boring. There is some tension when John first arrives at Warwick's, mainly because we don't know what kind of guy John is. Would he hurt Warwick? Is he that desperate? But, once we begin to learn what kind of guy Warwick is, the tension is amped considerably. Then, The Perfect Host turns into one of those movies where the morals become skewed. John is a criminal, and thus, we should want to see him get caught, but the movie portrays him as the hero at times, so we worry for his safety.

Saying that the bulk of the movie takes place at Warwick's shouldn't imply that it's stagnant or boring. The movie will occasionally shift focus to show us the police officer investigating the robbery (Nathaniel Parker). More importantly, we get flashbacks which show us what John did before the robbery. This helps to give us more information on his character and to explain his motivations.

It's not until the third act that we learn the truth about Warwick and this is where the movie falls apart. There's nothing like a good surprise, but I guarantee that no one in the audience guessed what his profession was before it was revealed. Not that the majority of The Perfect Host is the most realistic movie ever made, but the last ten minutes feels very far-fetched and hard to believe. All of the tension and suspense which had been ratcheted up during the movie is suddenly released -- not in a manner of "Ah!", but in a manner of "Oh...". This weak ending really hurts the film. I would have preferred no resolution to this near-sighted one.

Still, The Perfect Host does have it's strong points. I don't think I've ever seen David Hyde Pierce in a role like this, and our pre-conceived notions about him as an actor help to make Warwick's behavior all the more surprising. Clayne Crawford, who looks like the lovechild of Ray Liotta and Gavin Rossdale, is good as John, as he's able to play both threatening and vulnerable. Their very different acting styles don't clash, they help to reinforce the class difference between John and Warwick. The movie also works on different levels as well -- we get suspense, a little violence, and a few laughs. However, the movie is ruined by the ending, making it a rental at best.

The Perfect Host makes me wonder about these people who don't eat dinner until 9pm on DVD courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only minor grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the picture is never overly dark or bright. There is some mild artifacting and a few shots look a bit soft, but otherwise, for a DVD, this is a solid transfer. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and there are several examples of off-screen sounds in the house being defined in the left and right channels. The surround sound effects aren't as impressive, but the in-film music sounds very good as it fills the rear speakers. The subwoofer effects are limited to thuds during the violent scenes.

The Perfect Host DVD contains only a scant amount of extras. "Making of The Perfect Host with Writer/Director Nick Tomnay" (11 minutes) has the filmmaker discussing the origin of his movie. We learn that The Perfect Host is based on a black-and-white short made by Tomnay several years ago, and we get to see some clips from the original (which are almost shot-for-shot the same). From there, he discusses the casting and the production. This is punctuated by some on-set footage. "HDNet: A Look at The Perfect Host" (4 minutes) is a brief featurette which offers comments from Pierce and many clips -- it plays like a trailer with commentary. Speaking of trailers, the THEATRICAL TRAILER is the final extra.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long