A Perfect Day (I) (2015)
Failed attempt at blending realism and absurdist humor
18 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I called it. As soon as I saw the trailer, the only word I could think of was 'aimless'. And sure enough, the ironically titled A Perfect Day, turns out to be a not so perfect day at the theatre. The film tries desperately to combine road trip elements with social commentary on warfare and aid workers in Balkan conflict zones, but the end result is boring and pointless, an unbalanced mess of ideas. Road trip? More like road tripe.

Mambrú (Benicio del Toro) is overseeing the removal of a fat corpse from a well 'somewhere in the Balkans' as the film puts it. The rotting corpse doesn't exactly help things on the sanitary front, as you can imagine. Like my patience, the rope is wearing thin and rope snaps. So begins a trip across the countryside to secure some new rope. He is joined by his rather eccentric partner, B (Tim Robbins, who's sporting the biggest, most unnatural looking set of pearly whites I've ever seen), new blood Sophie, a translator, and an old flame, Katya (Olga Kurylenko). Along the way, they'll meet people, bump into the U.N., etc. I can't sum it up much better than that.

I'll get right down to it: this movie is so terribly balanced I'd almost say it suffers from bipolar disorder. I get that it tries to combine the appeal of a road trip movie with some serious storytelling, but it just never works. You jump from a zany scene to a sad one, all the while questioning how you're supposed to take any of it seriously. A perfect example: early on, when the new girl Sophie sees the body in the well, she freaks out in a way that feels like it should elicit laughter: 'haha, that's cute, she's not used to bodies yet.' Mambrú and B's reactions seem to confirm this. Later, Mambrú and Sophie are in a ruined house looking for rope. Sophie opens a door, but doesn't notice a body hanging behind her. Mambrú tries to spare her the trauma, but Sophie of course sees the body and freaks out. She freaks out in the same way again, but this time it's supposed to be taken seriously. But how can I take it seriously when the film was using her reaction for laughs earlier? Other examples include the gang driving through the mountains as rock music plays, when suddenly we get a scene where they have to drive away from soldiers rounding up people to be shot; A major subplot involves Mambrú and Katya who used to be lovers. Mambrú's surprised by her appearance and they have some conversations where they dance around the issue. Despite seeing someone else, he still has feelings for her, although he wouldn't admit to this. The same goes for her. Watching their banter is about as interesting as you'd expect, but in the end it doesn't contribute anything to the plot nor does B contribute anything except a few laughs. Sophie goes from oblivious newbie to 'having learned the ways of the world', but it's not the focus of the film, so why should I care? Needless to say, the acting, while decent, cannot save this walking identity crisis. Not even Tim Robbins and his great white teeth can save it. It's not a case of the actors failing the movie, but the movie failing the actors. It's the kind of experience where, instead of being absorbed by the *clears throat* 'drama', you're trying to peek inside the actors' heads and wonder what's really going through their minds.

I can see what the filmmakers were going for, but the few scenes that bordered on interesting just made me wish they didn't waste their time with boring romances and botched attempts at road trippy humor and instead took things a little more seriously. There are poignant scenes, like the one where Mambrú struggles with his own uselessness when attempting to help others. Here, notions of helping others on a large or small scale, bureaucracy, usefulness, etc. are all touched upon, but the film's all-over-the-place attitude prevents you from taking it as seriously as you'd want to. Right when the credits started rolling, there were high school kids in the front row clapping. Pray for them, dear reader. Pray for them.
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