The first ten times I watched A Perfect Murder, I thought it was the cut. I liked the sexy slowness of the plot, I thought Gwyneth Paltrow was a top notch heroine, I was happy to see Michael Douglas, and I went on to develop a hardcore crush on Viggo Mortensen. What can I say? It was the late Nineties.
In retrospect, A Perfect Murder borders more on the so-bad-it’s-good side of awesome. For starters, you’ve got the chemistryless union between Steven (Douglas) and Emily (Paltrow) Taylor. And even though she is an exceedingly wealthy and well educated young woman, our Emily never thought to ask for a pre-nup because she and crusty old Steven are all about love. It’s not even sort of weird that he was her father’s friend and therefore, yes, totally old enough to be her dad.
Except, maybe it is kind of weird that Steven is old enough to be her father, and maybe the one thing Emily didn’t learn at whatever amazing Ivy League school she attended was street smarts. Soon enough Emily is engaging in an affair with a sexy young artist named David (Mortensen), and Steven is plotting to kill her and take all her money. The best part of all of this? Steven wants to hire David to knock her off and make it look like she interrupted a burglary.
Admittedly, it is weirdly fascinating watching these three half-wits all trying to kill each other. Poor David is so tortured by the whole process that we get sexy scenes of him writhing in anguish on the floor of his dirty downtown loft. Steven is all about sneakiness and alibis, and poor Emily is just clueless. Sensitive and multilingual to the max, Emily is surprisingly inept at everyday things. Like when the phone rings and you’re in the tub, you don’t have to say “hello” (in your painfully deliberate tone) eight or nine times to determine that nobody’s on the line. You can totally just stop dripping on the floor and hang up after the second one, whether it’s all a ploy to make you run into a murderer in the kitchen or not.
While interesting and watchable, A Perfect Murder is sometimes slow and stylish, sometimes deliberate and plodding. Similarly, the characters are sometimes sexy and scheming, and sometimes they are just slow. This modern take on Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder is no boon to the genre, but it is still enjoyable.