[Another catch up from this year's FanTasia film festival]
A criminal on the run cons his way into the wrong dinner party where the host is anything but ordinary.
Career criminal John [Clayne Crawford] discovers the LAPD is in hot pursuit after robbing a bank. Even though he believes he has been careful not to link the crime back to him they know his name. They even know what kind of car he is driving. Desperate to get off the streets he cons his way into Warwick's [David Hyde Pierce] home. He pretends to be a friend of Warwick's, Julia, after reading a postcard in his mail she sent from Australia. Warwick seems friendly enough, if not a bit on the gentle and soft side. He offers a glass of wine, use of his phone to call John's 'Cousin' or the airline to locate his 'lost luggage', eventually inviting him to stay for a dinner party Warwick is hosting that evening.
But early into the evening John's lies are exposed he's forced to escalate the encounter into a full-scale home invasion, holding Warwick hostage with a kitchen carving knife. John orders Warwick to cancel his dinner party. He just needs to lay low for a while and collect his thoughts; he'll be gone by the morning. But John will discover very quickly that he is not the most dangerous person in the house. The night is still young and the party is just about to
David is completely mad and manic as Warwick. Sure he starts off all Nigel Crane, a character he has down pat, but once the tables are turned he is really allowed to let go and embrace a whole new type of character and he runs with it, exuding a physicality I have not seen from him. I was reminded very much how Kevin Spacey can have this calm demeanour then explode on cue. Tomnay's screenplay gives David these opportunities to get really crazy and wild. The joy of The Perfect Host to see this side of David.
Nick Tomnay shows great competence behind the camera. It is a smart and simple looking film and he displays great control of camera within the walls of Warwick's house. Unfortunately, his screenplay feels compelled to take things further than they really have to and runs the risk of losing the attention and support of the viewer. In the final act it keeps twisting and turning so much that the plot tips towards silliness. It falls under the weight of its own ambitiousness and determination to leave no stone unturned, answer any possible question that a viewer may come up with, and still try to surprise the audience up until the very end. A shame really, because as day breaks the film doesn't and the story could have ended there; perhaps a bit more ambiguous than most would like. But I felt it really lost its momentum after Warwick's party was over and the focus shifted back and forth between John and Warwick, trying to explain everything about them.
The Perfect Host is a debut film that offers promise and displays potential in Nick Tomnay. It also gives us a performance from David that is as delicious as the duck Warwick served at dinner.
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