Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Rowena Price (played by Halle Berry) is an investigative journalist who doesn’t mind going after the tough stories. In the opening scene, she uncovers a U.S. senator’s sex scandal with a male staffer, and gets the senator threatening her on tape. The story will definitely derail the man’s career — but it is pulled and buried by the publisher. Another case of rich men protecting rich men, Rowena laments to researcher/co-worker/friend Miles (Giovanni Ribisi). She quits the paper and decides to pursue other stories on her own.
One promising lead drops into her lap when old friend Grace (Nicki Aycox) reveals that she has been having an affair with wealthy, married advertising exec Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis). Hill wants to break off the affair, but Grace isn’t willing to let him off the hook that easily. She encourages Rowena to run with the story, and gives her copies of email and IM exchanges between herself and someone with the screen name AdEx (whom Grace claims is Hill). Rowena reads through the files, and, after Grace is found murdered the next day, decides to spring into action, as she is convinced that Hill did it (or ordered it done).
With Miles’ help, Rowena gets a job at Hill’s agency, H2A, as a temp so she can get to watch Hill in action. Furthermore, Miles sets Rowena up in some chat rooms so she can “encounter” AdEx online and perhaps entice him into an in-person meeting. Miles is also looking for a way to hack into Hill’s H2A email account for concrete proof that the AdEx emails to Grace came from Hill.
The rest of the film then follows Grace’s attempts to get close to Harrison Hill, as she and Miles try to accumulate enough evidence to pin Grace’s murder on him. There is a major plot twist at the end, which I won’t reveal here, but will discuss with spoiler bars below. Read at your own risk!
- The surprise ending has been panned by most critics and audiences, but after thinking about it for a bit, it didn’t bother me that much. I even liked it — to a certain extent.
For one thing, I knew Harrison Hill wasn’t the killer, but I thought it would turn out to be Miles. When it was revealed that Rowena was the killer, I was shocked and thought, “Oh, come on!” but after reviewing some of the details, there were clues along the way. The clues don’t exactly let you guess that she was the killer, but they add up in the end. For instance, when Rowena found Miles’ porn stash, pictures of Grace, and shrine to her, she should have been scared. Anyone in her position would have thought Miles was the killer. But of course, since she was the killer, she simply reacted with anger and disgust.
- For as long a film as this was, there were very few slow spots. I was involved and at least mildly interested at what was going on most of the way.
- The part of the ending I didn’t like was
the neighbor watching Rowena murder Miles. I was rooting for her by then and wanted her to get away with it.
- The motive for the killing was pretty thin.
Rowena’s mother was in a nursing home, so I doubt the prosecutors would have gone after her very hard. Ro herself was just a kid at the time of the murder, so what could the authorities really do to her? That kind of blackmail wouldn’t hold up for that long, if you ask me.
- The way that Rowena and Miles were discussing how the killing unfolded at the end was laughable. Every few seconds they were in a different part of the apartment, posed in a different, totally casual manner.
Yeah, that’s how I would react if a friend of mine were telling me that he knew how I killed someone!
At the outset I was a bit worried about the ultra-negative reviews Perfect Stranger received, but I didn’t think it turned out to be that bad. It was watchable, and though there were some plot holes and a somewhat contrived ending, I thought it was sufficiently entertaining. Let’s just put it this way: I’ve seen worse. I give this film 3 stars out of 5.