Sundance 2011 Quick Reviews: 'The Convincer' and 'Perfect Sense'
by Ethan Anderton
January 27, 2011
The end of the world has been foretold over and over in many movies, and more often than not, it really does end with a bang. But in Perfect Sense, the world, or at least humanity, feels the effects of a crippling epidemic. We first meet Susan (Eva Green) after a tough break-up, suddenly a more immediate concern presents itself in her scientific field of epidemiology. A Glasgow man has turned up after experiencing a hysterical crying fit only to discover that upon calming himself, he was suddenly without the sense of smell. Then she learns similar cases have turned up in Britain, France and Italy all within the past 24 hours.
Back at home, Susan has a handsome gentleman caller in Michael (Ewan McGregor) who charms her enough to cook dinner (he's a chef) in the restaurant just outside of her apartment. But when Susan finds herself in a sudden explosion of sadness and tears, all Michael can do is take her home and comfort her before he himself breaks down and weeps uncontrollably. The next morning the two can't even smell the coffee they've prepared. Though this may be the beginning of a new love, it's also the beginning of the end of the world as we know it.
Director David Mackenzie (who brought Spread to Sundance in 2009) crafts a beautiful story about humanity, but more importantly, whether love can survive when humans are deprived of the very senses that allow them to experience it. Magnificently shot and phenomenally acted by both McGregor and Green, this film paints a picture the end of the world where our emotions explode out of control before we lose an intricate part of our being. Stark but with a glimmer of hope from love, this film is a unique romance with a sci-fi backdrop that is riveting, heart-wrenching and poignant.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 9 out of 10
Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear) is a damn good insurance salesman. He'll ask you the time and before you know it you're fearing for your own safety whilst heading out to go hunting with your best buddies without any life or liability insurance. You may or may not call him The Convincer, but despite his talents, both his marriage and his business are falling apart. Unable to keep up with bills and in a tough spot with his wife Jo Ann (Lea Thompson), this guy had to take money out of his son's college fund just to pay for his car (although it was a Cadillac).
But when his dopey new salesman (played very well by David Harbour) is careful to make sure old man Gorvy Hauer (made hilarious by Alan Arkin) isn't overinsured, Mickey is forced to step in, and it's a good thing he did. The absent-minded old man isn't even aware that he's been propositioned by a violin dealer to purchase an old and valuable violin that may be worth $30,000. So Mickey schemes to snag the violin while posing as a helpful insurance agent so he can be in the good graces of his wife and son again by paying back the money he's wasted.
But when Randy Kinney (a scene-stealing Billy Crudup) shows up to put a new alarm system on Gorvy's house, a crime comedy of errors is set in motion that gets complicated and bloody. This comedy can be easily explained by comparing it to a certain Best Picture winner in the 70's (I won't say which for fear of ruining the entire film), but certain elements take it from lighter fare into an inferior Coen Brothers-esque crime caper. Sadly most of the film's momentum is lost in an exposition laden ending that is confusing and brings the film to a sudden halt. Performances by Crudup and Arkin steal the show and while writer and director Jill Sprecher has a somewhat decent grasp on comedy, unfortunately she has a better grasp on the in's and out's of insurance sales and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 6 out of 10