8/17/09

Review: A Perfect Getaway (2009)


A Perfect Getaway is a bit of a throwaway movie. It has all the elements to be pretty interesting, but decides to be much too "clever" for its own good. It has good actors and acting, production values, and a genial pace, even a bit of a sense of humor, but in the end the humor works against the twisty ending rather than for it.

It's the story of a newly married couple, Cliff (the estimable Steve Zahn) and Cydney (the also estimable Milla Jovovich), who for some crazy reason decide to hike a very difficult wilderness trail in Hawaii for their honeymoon. One assumes they know about what they're getting into in terms of the hiking trip, but that's not exactly clear.

Things seem copacetic until they encounter a hitchhiking hippie-looking couple, Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton) a few miles from the head of the trail. First they stop for them, then backtrack on offering them a ride, then extend the invitation again, by which time they've caused a bit of friction, the first tension of the film.

It's hard to go on chronologically from here without spoilers, as it's the type of movie in which everybody is a suspect, in this case, the suspect in the murder of a couple in Honolulu which Cliff and Cydney learn about from others they encounter on the trail.

But suffice it to say that among the others they meet are yet another couple, Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez, who's really excellent above the level of the film), who have an act. Nick tells stories about his bad self as an undercover government commando, then Gina says, "He's really hard to kill."

Cliff and Nick bond over screenwriting, the movies and storytelling in general, and Nick displays some survival skills and war wounds which make us wonder if he really is telling the truth about his exploits. Cydney and Gina tell each other secrets and get close that way, so they continue along the trail together, despite both couples, broadly, meeting the known facts about the Honeymoon Killers, and both displaying lots of hardiness and savvy about wilderness excursions.

Some of Cliff and Nick's conversations about writing movies are meant to be self-reflective on the film, and they're funny enough in context, but the general problem is that they're smarter than the level of the film's own plot. When the reveal comes, and the guessing's mostly over, it's handled much more ham-handedly than all their big talk would lead the audience to hope to expect.

While on one level, the way it's handled (no, I'm not even going to tell you how) is actually kind of rare and unusual for a Hollywood movie, it also shows why. It's just not all that interesting, and it also cheats a bit too much. Getting back to Kiele Sanchez, she is interesting. She's been working for about nine years in major productions, though I hadn't really noticed her in anything before. Her performance is the lone spot-on performance on display, despite her being surrounded by very good, more prominent players like Zahn, Jovovich and Olyphant. In part, her character is better written than the others. In part, she's just very, very good, just right.

Two stars, by my rating system, is kind of a close call if you're a big fan of any of the people involved, or if you've heard anything particularly intriguing about a film from anybody else, but I'd give A Perfect Getaway a skip in general, if I could go back in time to decide whether or not to see it again. Ah, but then I might have missed Miss Sanchez....

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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