People always complain about Hollywood never having any original ideas, but when it comes to remakes, there are probably few films that have been adapted as many times in such a short timeframe as the 2016 Italian hit Perfect Strangers.
So, why has Perfect Strangers been remade so many times? And which of the many adaptations should you seek out?
With so many remakes in such a short timeframe, it’s entirely possible that people are unaware of where this story came from. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to find: Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti) is an Italian film by director Paolo Genovese, released on February 11, 2016.
Following a group of friends who get together for a dinner party, the film tells the story of the evening as they decide to play a game in which they all lay their mobile phones out on the dinner table, and agree to read out every incoming message over the course of the meal, since they have nothing to hide from one another.
Inevitably, chaos ensues when it appears there are one or two people keeping secrets that were never meant to be made out in the open, leading to quarrells, the rapid breakdown of friendships and more.
As a movie, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, with slick direction from Genovese, a snappy and exciting screenplay, and a collection of brilliant performances from the seven leads, all of which helped it to pick up over €16m at the Italian box office, and take home the prize for Best Film at the 2016 David di Donatello Awards, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars.
So, following the film’s success in Italy, it was picked up by Greek director Thodoris Atheridis, and released as Perfect Strangers (Τέλειοι ξένοι) in Greece ten months after the original’s release in December 2016, even though it was never marketed as a direct remake.
With a decent reception for the Greek remake, Spain soon followed suit in December 2017 with the release of the film Perfect Strangers (Perfectos desconocidos), directed by acclaimed cult director Álex de la Iglesia, taking over €13m at the Spanish box office.
Then things started to get completely out of hand in 2018, as the floodgates opened for remakes from all around the world. Last year, we had no less than SEVEN adaptations released, from countries in every corner of the globe including Turkey, South Korea, China, India, Hungary, Mexico and France (whose film Nothing To Hide (Le jeu) is available on Netflix).
What About Hollywood?
You’d think that, with such a winning formula, Hollywood would have pounced on any opportunity to remake Perfect Strangers for an English-language audience, yet while adpatations in Germany, Qatar, Poland, Sweden and certainly others are already underway, nothing as yet has been made for the Anglosphere.
In truth, Hollywood did manage to get the rights to Perfect Strangers from Paolo Genovese, and while a remake was all ready to go, the rights were purchased under the now-defunct Weinstein Company, and with the fall of former president Harvey Weinstein, the American remake of Perfect Strangers has been left in limbo for the past two years.
It’s a strange situation, but this is one of the few cases where, with the absence of an English-language production for worldwide consumption, individual countries have had the opportunity to go out and make their own adaptations, giving local audiences something a little bit closer to home than another hulking Hollywood blockbuster, which I personally think is great for pretty much everyone involved, and will certainly prove a boost to a range of film industries around the world.
But why has Perfect Strangers been remade so many times?
It’s an interesting question, and one that’s open to a lot of interpretation. Certainly, the lack of an English-language version has meant individual countries have gone and made their own instead, however there’s something more to the film than the cold reality of the film industry.
Simply put, it’s a brilliant story, and one that combines two completely alien yet entirely relatable everyday situations: the dinner party, and the world inside your mobile phone. We all fret and worry about our secrets being released to the world, and this film takes those worries and puts them into a nightmarish social engagement, as a group of best friends all discover what every one of their friends is really like, with no inhibitions, no barriers and no privacy.
On top of that, the film points to how modern society is so overly reliant on the digital world, and more specifically, their mobile phones. Once again, a relatable and almost universal contemporary topic, the film cuts deep into a topic that’s still fairly untouched on the big screen, yet does it in equally fascinating and entertaining fashion, as all the trappings of the many secrets we hide away in our phones come out into the open.
That’s a theme that pretty much anyone in the modern day can relate to, and that’s why it has such a universal appeal to countries from all over the world.
While many countries often produce award-winning international hits year on year, they’re often limited to either an audience with the same language, or to a less general audience that’s interested in learning more about that country or society in particular, rather than the masses, the people who really matter to big film companies.
So, there’s a modern day universality to Perfect Strangers that makes it easily applicable to any country and any culture. If you watch any of the films, you’ll notice that the setting, characters, jokes and more stay pretty much exactly the same, with one or two unique interpretations here and there.
Yet with a different cast, director and language each time, each film does feel like its own, and as long as you don’t watch them all back-to-back, then you’ll certainly find whichever one you choose an enjoyable watch.
Which one should I watch?
That’s entirely up to you. So far, I’ve only seen five of the Perfect Strangers movies (Italian, Spanish, French, Chinese, South Korean), and in my opinion, the Italian original is still the very best.
For the sake of fairness, you might want to give the original a go first, which is what I did, but you might also prefer watching your own country’s adaptation first off, which should give you an even more relatable flavour before diving into some of the international remakes.
The one thing to know beforehand is that, given how recent all of these films are (all of them have come out in the past three years), it’s likely not too easy to find places to watch some of the more recent ones. The French film, Nothing To Hide, is available on Netflix in most countries, as is the Spanish Perfectos desconocidos, while the Italian original is available on DVD and more platforms all around the world.
Most of the 2018 releases aren’t available anywhere apart from their home countries as of yet, so it’s still a bit of a waiting game if you’re like me and trying to collect them all as quickly as possible.
Still, it’s a curious case, and while we expect to see more and more Perfect Strangers remakes throughout 2019, here’s a list of all the films so far for you to seek out:
- Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti) (2016) – Italy (review here)
- Perfect Strangers (Τέλειοι ξένοι) (2016) – Greece
- Perfect Strangers (Perfectos desconocidos) (2017) – Spain (review here)
- Perfect Strangers (Cebimdeki Yabancı) (2018) – Turkey
- Loudspeaker (2018) – India (Kannada)
- Nothing To Hide (Le jeu) (2018) – France (review here)
- Intimate Strangers (완벽한 타인) (2018) – South Korea (review here)
- BÚÉK (2018) – Hungary
- Perfect Strangers (Perfectos desconocidos) (2018) – Mexico
- Kill Mobile (来电狂响) (2018) – China (review here)
- United States
(And yes, I will make it my life mission to watch every single one of these.)