“You’ve only got yourself to blame.”
It’s tough being a thief. The people/institution you stole from are after you, the police are after you, sometimes accomplices are after you and as the search narrows any port in a storm until the heat cools down looks like the best way forward.
When John Taylor (Clayne Crawford morphs from clever desperado to pathetic dupe with convincing style) opts to weasel his way into a safe, upscale haven by pretending to be a friend-of-a-friend (hilariously not even pronouncing his sudden host’s first name correctly), he is welcomed unreservedly—even invited to stay for a dinner party whose guests literally seem to be neither here nor there. Warwick Wilson is a charming poofter who comes to incredible life thanks to David Hyde Pierce’s tenor and tone, leaving his former alter ego (Dr. Niles Crane) in TV-land dust: finally, without Kelsey Grammer in the room, he can take centre stage and most deservedly, artfully does so.
Director Nick Tomnay (along with co-writer Krishna Jones) has fleshed out a short subject into full-length narrative with copious amounts of humour, intrigue and a couple of real surprises. The central tables-oh-so-certainly-turned relationship between the common crook and his very uncommon cook (roast duck: yummy!) and wine dispenser (an especially fine red whose pungent, dreamy bouquet becomes a real knockout) has a marvellous feel and echo of Sleuth (cross-reference below).
The only serious misfire (seemingly in epidemic proportions in this season of leading men whose writers believe will become instant sympathetic characters without more conscientiously preparing the way with cause-and-effect back-story leading to current actions) stems from the reversal: As Taylor is bullied, beaten, tied up and relieved of his own ill-gotten bounty, empathy for his plight is in very short supply. The brief attempt to show just cause for relieving others of their cash barely registers, much less forgives.
In the supporting cast, Helen Reddy, Tyrees Allen and Cooper Barnes standout as they go about their business as friends and neighbours of Wilson—whether or not they actually appear!
The deft bits of classical music (courtesy of Mozart and Grieg) along with the perfectly metaphorical chess matches (in and out of the tub) are just a few of the details that keep this production from being overridden with a sense of déjà vu.
Overall, The Perfect Host is a welcome sherbet between the many more weighty films currently playing and the daily reports of real criminal activity around the globe. It should also cure everyone of snooping on others by surreptitiously reading their mail. JWR