At The Picture Show
The fun side of manipulation
Twohy [de]-constructs a compelling exercise in style in 'Perfect Getaway'
A Perfect Getaway
Director: David Twohy
Screenplay: David Twohy
Starring: Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez, Marley
Shelton and Chris Hemsworth
Rated R / 1 hour, 37 minutes
(out of four)
These days, a lot of movies try to do what A Perfect Getaway does - the tongue-in-cheek self-awareness, the self-diagnosis, the deliberate allusions to form, structure
and storytelling. Everyone's a deconstructionist.
Oftentimes, the filmmakers who go for that style get stuck in a sort of collegiate
mindset, so excited about the prospect of what they're doing - "Look ma, I'm
deconstructing!" - that all they manage to accomplish is drawing attention to the
fact that they're doing it. Unless it's purely experimental or wildly unique, it likely
falls flat; nothing is there to support or justify the conceit in the first place.
David Twohy's A Perfect Getaway is
essentially an exercise in structural manipulation and screenplay creation, and what
works so wonderfully about it is not only the fun it has with its technique, but the
joy it takes in its characters and dialogue. How unlikely is it that a movie about
vacationing couples being terrorized by a serial killer is driven by great
performances and a wry sense of humor? Yet somehow, this movie pulls it off.
Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich play newlyweds Cliff and Cydney who are taking
an adventurous vacation in Hawaii, only to be warned when they get there that a
pair of killers is on the loose - and seems to be targeting couples.
Along the way meet a pair of couples that, given what we know, seem naturally
conspicuous. The first is a grungy, tattooed pair, Cleo and Kale, played by Marley
Shelton and Chris Hemsworth; the second a pair of sardonic free spirits, Nick
(Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez). There is a lot of humor not only in
the way the film's inevitable twists reveal themselves but also in the interactions
between the characters. Cliff and Cydney wind up partnering up with Nick and
Gina for most of a lengthy hike up a mountain, setting up some tremendous
sequences in which the two couples try to feel each other out - the possibility that
either one of them, or Cleo and Kale, or some unforeseen combination, or another
entity altogether - could be the guilty party.
Adding to the film's self-awareness is the
fact that Cliff is a screenwriter - a point of constant conversation for Nick, who
once took a screenwriting class and fancies himself perfect material for a movie
character. He can certainly spin a fantastic story - and each tale he tells gets a bit
more outlandish. He claims to have been a special forces operative; he claims to
have survived a plane crash; he has no hesitation about going into the woods and
hunting down a goat for dinner. And he always has that smirk on his face, as if
he's just a step or two ahead.
What brings every scene between these four characters to life most of all is the
superb performance by Olyphant, who magnificently straddles the line between
innocent and dangerous, between a little bit eccentric and a little bit insane. You
may not know quite what to make of him, but whatever he is or turns out to be,
he's compulsively likable.
It's high time Olyphant started to become a bigger star, but given how low under
the radar A Perfect Getaway has gone, even a standout performance like this one
isn't likely to make that happen. In every role I've seen him in, he's elevated the
material - be it as the sleazy producer in The Girl Next Door, the cyber-terrorist in
Live Free or Die Hard, the drug dealer in Go or the sheriff in Deadwood. He has a
Michael Biehn-like quality but with a more pronounced comedic sensibility.
Sooner or later, I declare, he'll hit the big-time.
As great as he is here, the rest of the actors
more than pull their weight - and since so much of the film's effectiveness lies in
the way the characters behave around one another, that's paramount.
Whether or not you figure out which twists and turns are looming is pretty much
beside the point - in fact, I had things pegged pretty early on. But A Perfect
Getaway remains a complete entertainment nonetheless. Twohy's characters are so
engaging, and his structure so airtight, that he can simply let his sense of
playfulness go wild.
It's a matter of tone, really - something an alarming number of filmmakers either
don't understand or choose to ignore. There has been a litany of guilty films
recently - the silly movie that doesn't know how to be silly, the Dark Movie that
takes itself far too seriously, the satire absent any sense of grounding or restraint,
the character-driven comedy without any wit. Now, as an unofficial response,
comes a film that knows exactly how to do what it does and balances its elements
just right. This Getaway may not be perfect, but it could certainly teach a lot of
other movies a thing or two.
Read more by Chris Bellamy