Monday, March 19, 2012

Perfect Sense

“Perfect Sense” isn’t what you’d call a date night’s light entertainment. It’s an apocalyptic romance with Eva Green and the ubiquitous Ewan McGregor as Glaswegians whose nascent affair coincides with the advent of a global pandemic in which, over a few months’ time, all of humankind experiences a series of sensory-overload moments (ravenous hunger, rage, overpowering grief), followed by the loss of each of the five senses.

It’s a fascinating set-up, but plays out preposterously. The incidents happen the same way around the world, all within a few days, and as disgusting as some of them are, they’re too clean, too uniform – none of the messy collateral damage of real life is allowed to intrude on the vision. The filmmakers rely on musical montages of video clips of strangers in various foreign lands, which prove as effective as such montages always do (that is to say, not at all; cf. “Contagion").

The aftermath of the incidents is internally inconsistent. Places damaged beyond repair in one scene are back up and running in the next, while the restaurant where chef McGregor plies his trade stays open a laughably long time in context. Meanwhile, Green, who happens to be an epidemiologist (!), may as well be a temporary secretary for all the specialized knowledge she brings to bear and the time she devotes to solving the crisis.

The movie wants to have its cake and eat it too. It aims to be a 21st-century “Miracle Mile,” with a powerful love story against an ultimate backdrop. Though it appeals to the same adolescent sensibility that perhaps led me slightly to overestimate “Miracle Mile,” it has none of that film’s style or visual wit. Still, there are undoubtedly teenagers whose favorite film it will become, for a short while.

To succeed, though, both halves of the story must work, and here neither does. The love story fails because the filmmakers themselves don’t love or care about their characters. They designed a scenario and then crafted templates to exploit its perceived impact. Even in that, they missed opportunities. The last scene, in which Green and McGregor seek each other out just before losing their eyesight, could have ended at a surprisingly affecting moment; instead, it continues, and becomes generic. The two leads are reasonably appealing, but haven’t been given real people to inhabit; rather, they’re chessmen placed in terrifying situations by the unseen hands (and sappy, makes-no-sense narration) of the filmmakers.

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