Starring: Noriyuki Higashiyama, Honami Suzuki, Takako Tokiwa
Director: Michio Mitsuno
Running Time: 100 mins
Perfect Strangers is a Japanese film about a group of seven friends who get together for a dinner party, and decide to play a game. Placing each of their phones on the table, they agree to share the content of every message they receive, as they have nothing to hide. However, it soon appears that this is going to be no normal evening.
This is the seventh international version of Perfect Strangers that I’ve seen, all remakes of the original Italian film released in 2016. This time, it’s Japan’s turn to take on the most-remade film in cinema history, but this version unfortunately turns out to be one of the weaker adaptations.
As a standalone film, Perfect Strangers is a perfectly harmless watch. It’s quite light-hearted, features a couple of wacky performances, a few fun twists, and all takes place in the confines of a nicely-ordered café, an interesting departure of setting from all of the previous adaptations of this story.
However, if you’re like me and you know this story off by heart after watching seven different adaptations, then you’ll be looking for what sets Japan’s version of Perfect Strangers apart from the rest of the world. And for the most part, it’s not the positives that really shine.
On the whole, when this film sticks close to the format of the Italian original, it works rather well. The cinematography, pacing and dialogue certainly aren’t anywhere near as slick as the original, or the excellent German, Spanish and Korean remakes, but this movie works as an easy-going comedy-drama set around a dinner table.
There’s never a point where this film sets the screen alight with a big laugh, and nor does it capitalise on some of the best early twists of this story, as it changes the fundamental roles of some of the main characters, which rather dulls the impact of the emotional back stories that you go into the dinner party understanding.
For the most part, however, the first two acts of this film are pretty much in line with the Italian original, and that’s where it delivers enjoyable, albeit unspectacular comedy and drama. However, the final act offers a radical departure from any other version of this film.
Running for an hour and forty minutes, Perfect Strangers finishes with the closing twists seen in all of the other adaptations in barely more than an hour. That leaves just over half an hour where this movie completely goes its own way, and not for the better.
After having built to a crescendo that comes at the end of the second act, the last 30 minutes of this movie are a really dull, inconsequential slog to the finish, as it tries to upend the flamboyant, high-stakes arguments and friendship fallouts of the best versions of Perfect Strangers.
Admittedly, it’s nice to see that this Japanese version tries to bring a more uplifting note to its ending, rather than the clever cynicism that punctuates the end of the Italian original. The problem, however, is that it doesn’t feel well-earned, and comes about in rather inorganic fashion over the course of a poorly-written final act.
It’s always interesting to see how different countries change and adapt this story in their own ways, even if it’s not always for the better, as unfortunately proves the case for Japan here. Still, as a standalone film, Perfect Strangers is a solid watch, albeit a shadow of a number of far superior adaptations that have come before it. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5 overall.