Perfect Sense lacks perfection, sense [MOVIE REVIEW]
The core of the film is a love story between two attractive, self absorbed, unapproachable people – Susan, an epidemiologist (Eva Green), and Michael, the chef of a trendy Glasgow restaurant (Ewan McGregor), who meet cute during a time when Susan and her colleagues at the hospital are investigating what seems to be an initially rare but rapidly spreading virus-like disease that eliminates the sense of smell in patients who have undergone a bout of what amounts to a cathartic crying jag. Apparently, the crying jag is instituted by feelings of guilt for past misdeeds and roads not taken, which leave Susan and Michael seemingly untouched because neither seems to have any regrets over past actions. But as they grow closer, each becomes more vulnerable and they each succumb to what is only the first in a series of symptoms of the disease, each attacking a new sense. For Michael, the loss of smell and then taste is initially devastating to his livelihood, the business of food. But, as he, others and the voice-over point out, life goes on; you adjust.
Curiously, Susan and her colleagues quickly seem to lose interest in the origins and possible solutions to the virus as the world falls prey to each successive loss – first smell, then taste, followed by hearing and ultimately vision. (MacKenzie, or possibly Kim Fupz Aakeson, the writer, seems to have forgotten that there are five senses, not four.) Each loss is immediately preceded by some sort of violent outburst; and with each loss, a voice-over tries, incoherently, to make the loss related to global warming, toxicity in the environment, and man’s inhumanity to man.
Reading this, one would get the impression that I didn’t like the film, and that is not entirely true. The central love story has depth as two shallow people begin to trust and rely on one another and begin to grow in ways neither had ever imagined even as the apocalypse seems to surround them. Their ultimate awakening coincides with catastrophic events. Though life goes on, as Michael is wont to say, it goes on better if you can share it. Ewan McGregor, as always (or almost always because, after all, there was the bad misstep that was “Haywire” with the unforgivable hair cut) is charming and injects just enough warmth into coldhearted characters to allow for some empathy. Eva Green, lovely to look at, lacks the reciprocal warmth that would add more dimension to her character.
But, honestly, I don’t know what the central premise is or was supposed to be, especially since there is no effort to try to explain the phenomenon or link it to some kind of plausible science in a science fiction scenario. Although it initially seemed as though the writer were going to tie the virus and loss of each sense to an increasing or decreasing function of the brain – working its way up or down the cortex – ultimately she didn’t, leaving us with annoying voice-overs and meaningless clips of flowers, oceans, and things turned upside down. So, in the end, the viewer is left with a love story in a not so brave new world that makes no sense.
Opening Friday, March 9 at the Laemmle Monica 4.
Neely also writes a blog about writers in television and film at www.nomeanerplace.com