LIFF Review: Opening night film "Perfect Strangers" demonstrates how fragmented our lives have become
Vita Italiana centres on food, good wine and a lil bit of drama. Paolo Genovese's full length film Perfect Strangers is no exception. Whilst there is less of a focus on vino and cibi, there is no shortage of drama when seven long time friends congregate for a dinner.
Tension is high with the host couple Eva (Kasia Smutniak) and Rocco (Marco Giallini), after Eva rifles through the handbag of teen daughter Sophia (Benedetta Porcaroli) and finds condoms. Lele (Valerio Mastandrea) and Carlotta (Anna Foglietta) are your typical unhappy married couple with an array of first world problems. Sexual sparks aren’t an issue for newly weds Bianca (Alba Rohrwacher) and Cosimo (Edoardo Leo), who are trying for a baby which will presumably complete their lives. Lone wolf Beppe (Giuseppe Battiston) was meant to finally present his new girlfriend, but arrives alone; claiming she’s ill.
Eva, (the psychologist of the group) suggests a game where they share the content of every text message and phone call they receive during the evening. What seems like another one of her social experiments, actually results in some relationship-testing disclosures. Coveted plastic surgery, extra-marital affairs and harmless online chats are revealed. So as to avoid a complete shambles, phone swapping occurs which is intended to protect the guilty. This invariably causes even further problems and the circle of drama continues. The film's best feature is it's witty dialogue, creating cross cultural appeal (a` la Woody Allen) which perhaps detracted from the underlying message.
The experiment seems like a superficial and playful distraction on the surface; but results in a toxic depiction of our two-dimensional relationship with technology. Oh how we have regressed! Genovese seeks to convey that the loyalty of friendship has diminished because people prefer to trust the neutrality of a device. The humble smartphone has now become a repository for our illicit and most shameful behaviours.
Genovese is well known in Italy for creating light hearted comedies. His tenth feature film ventures deeper into contemporary Italian society. As Genovese says, “Smartphones have become a fundamental object, perhaps the only one that we always carry with us – our ‘black box’.” Perfect Strangers, the cinematic interpretation of this moral conundrum, demonstrates how fragmented our lives have become.