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A Perfect Murder movie review

A Perfect Murder

You don’t hear that the Old Vic is remaking Shakespeare’s Othello, or that a remake of The Crucible is playing in New York, so why do we use the term for shooting new productions of movies? Actors and directors and scriptwriters and other film-makers learn their craft by studying the films that came before them, and there in the film libraries are stories and roles that deserve revisiting. Who can blame actors (male and female) for wanting to play in some of the iconographic roles of this century? Unless they get to play the actor in a film biography, and do the role as part of the story, without remakes, these great, juicy roles would be forever lost to new generations of actors and directors.

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And as a writer, I have to admit there are films that I want to get my pen at. Especially where strong characters in books were rewritten to satisfy the studio’s ideas of lady-like behaviour and happy-ever-after money-makers. Of course, I have objections to people who want to rewrite my material to suit their agendas, but that's different.

Hell, I’m sure there’s a number of writers who’d like to be able to wrench their whimpering, bloody, gutted stories out of the clutches of one studio and nurse the material back to health in a ‘remake’ under the auspices of another production house. And why not? A good story is worth retelling.

Which brings me back to A Perfect Murder, which I will call a new production of Dial M for Murder. In its Nineties setting, A Perfect Murder is set in the wealth and privilege of the New York elite. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the elegant, highly educated, wealthy young wife, and Michael Douglas plays the older husband, a businessman playing high-stakes money games. She is a competent assistant to the ambassador at the United Nations; blonde, beautiful, a trophy wife in appearance, but with more skills and money than the bimbos we usually tag as trophies. He is the usual Douglas wealthy businessman, the ruthless, money-obsessed man we saw in The Game and Wall Street. His controlling behaviour, we are led to believe, sends her into the arms of another man. And so begins the plotting of the perfect murder.

This is a solid production, well-paced, nice looking, professionally acted and directed. The use of the artist/boyfriend's painting is interesting, and all-in-all watching A Perfect Murder is a reasonable way to pass the time. But...

It isn't that the story isn't new, or the characters, it's that the vision isn't new. There isn't anything ground-breaking in this film. I would have enjoyed something experimental in the production -- in the use of sound, or light, or colour, or something in the interpretation.

If the studios are going to spend the millions of dollars necessary to make a film, then the issue is not whether the story is new or not, but whether the retelling is necessary. Gus Van Sant is embroiled in controversy at the moment because he is directing a shot-by-shot recreation of Psycho with Anne Heche in the Janet Leigh role, and Vince Vaughn in the Anthony Perkins role.

Surely not shot-by-shot? Peter Bart brought me to a screaming stop when he wrote in Variety "20 years from now someone may be re-creating Good Will Hunting, scene by scene.

Who'll be playing the Robin Williams therapist? Leonardo di Caprio?

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See also: Gwyenth Paltrow also appears in Great Expectations
Michael Douglas also appears in The Game
Luke's review For credits and official site details, click here.
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Just the facts:

Title: A Perfect Murder (1998)
Written by: Patrick Smith Kelly
Directed by: Andrew Davis
Produced by: Stephen Brown, Peter Macgregor-Scott, Arnold Kopelson
Edited by: Dennis Virkler, Dov Hoenig
Director of Photography: Dariusz Wolski
running time:

The Players: Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow
Official website
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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: Oct-1998 : Last updated: 16-Nov-1998: Last tested:<3-Jul-2014
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