A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Halle Berry/Bruce Willis thriller -- which focuses on corporate deception and murder and has several sexually charged scenes -- is meant for adults. Violent imagery includes a decaying corpse in a morgue, flashbacks to a stepfather about to rape a little girl, a man's bloody murder and late-night burial, discussion of the effects of a dire poison, a threat made against a woman in a car, and a bloody stabbing death. Sexual content includes women in lingerie and sexy dresses, intercourse up against a wall (after a brief look, the camera cuts to man watching in the shadows), repeated references to Harrison's "lesbian" assistant, allusions to incest, sexual slang ("d--k," "balls"), graphic photos, and frequent sexual talk online. Four or five scenes feature drinking, at least twice to visible drunkenness, and there's a fair amount of swearing (mostly "f--k" and "s--t").
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Rowena (Halle Berry) -- a New York City journalist who writes as "David Chase" -- prides herself on uncovering other people's secrets. When her story about a U.S. senator's sex scandal is squashed, she quits in a huff, protesting that it's another instance of "powerful men protecting powerful men." She then runs into a childhood friend, Grace (Nicki Aycox), who begs her to seek reprisal against just such a "powerful man": multimillionaire advertising exec Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), who met Grace online, shared a bout of wild sex, then dumped her. Almost as soon as Rowena says she'll think about it, Grace turns up dead. Now Rowena's vengeance is personal.
Is it any good?
Another techno thriller in which the "techno" looks hopelessly out of date, Perfect Stranger would be laughable ... if its combination of violence and sex weren't so creepy. The movie deals with an ostensibly serious topic: namely, the many ways that contemporary life encourages "secrets" (that is, lies) -- in online relationships, undercover journalism, corporate espionage, and advertising. But it soon gets so mired in its protagonists' multiple pathologies that you wish they'd just come out in the open, act out their grudges, and get it over with.
Apparently unable to stop itself, PERFECT STRANGER piles on some nightmares for Rowena (she was traumatized by a bad stepfather as a child) and her ex, Cameron (Gary Dourdan), who shows up for steamy-seeming sex and an argument that has little to do with anything else. She's eventually so unable to keep track of her own actions that the movie's ostensible "twist" is less surprising than ridiculous.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why sex and violence often intersect in thrillers. How do movies and TV shows make sex seem bad or good? Do any of the characters in this movie use sex -- or even the idea of sex -- as a weapon? What messages does that send? Families can also discuss secrets. Is it ever good to keep secrets from people who trust you? What are the possible consequences of being caught in a lie or a secret?
- In theaters: April 12, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: August 21, 2007
- Cast: Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Halle Berry
- Director: James Foley
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, nudity, some disturbing violent images and language.