There’s this scene early on in THE PERFECT HUSBAND where the lead actress gets out of the car she and her husband are traveling in and takes a stroll through a nearby abandoned village. This scene, and the village in particular, put me in mind of the gloriously cheesy Blind Dead movies crafted by Spanish director Amando de Ossorio in the 1970s. Oh, if the Blind Zombies had only made an appearance in this film! Alas, they did not. THE PERFECT HUSBAND, then, must rise or fall based solely upon its own merits. Which is it? A bit of both, actually.
Also know as WHAT LIES WITHIN, a far more generic and inferior title, THE PERFECT HUSBAND tells the story of a married couple, the stunning Viola, played by Gabriella Wright—
—It seems Ms. Wright starred in the TV series TRUE BLOOD (I wouldn’t know as I never watched it.) and had some steamy sex scenes with Alexander Skarsgard, who may have once been a tall, skinny vampire (He was a vampire, right? As stated, I never watched the show.) but will now and forevermore be Tarzan to me. His new film, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is a magnificent epic, and if you haven’t seen it you should be on your way to your local theater NOW. But this review isn’t about THE LEGEND OF TARZAN or the Blind Zombies, is it? Alright, then, back to the matter at hand.—
—and handsome, man-bun-wearing Nicola, portrayed by Bret Roberts (who is unknown to me, although IMDB does tell me he had small roles in PEARL HARBOR and the exquisite MAY, which, as with Tarzan, if you haven’t seen it, do so at once).
So gorgeous Vi and handsome Nicola are dealing with the loss of a child, and decide to go away for the weekend to a cabin in the woods. There are little hints that things aren’t quite right with both of them, but those hints don’t adequately set the stage for the psychotic meltdown to come. Handsome Nicola spends the first third of the film speaking in a sensitive whisper, which gets annoying after a while, and otherwise being the titular perfect husband, long-suffering, loyal, and doting. So when he abruptly turns into Patrick Bateman and starts torturing Vi, it seems to come out of the ether; it’s jarring, but not believable. There wasn’t enough of a set-up.
THE PERFECT HUSBAND then turns into a misogynistic mess, a display of torture porn that could have been written by the Marquis de Sade. Also, poor abused (but still gorgeous) Viola gets stupid. Like, really stupid. At one point, when Nicola has lost the man-bun and transformed into Alex DeLarge from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (by incorporating whistling and singing into his menacing menagerie) and is chasing his wife with an axe, and she injures him and takes the axe away from him, instead of using it on him she tosses it away. Then later, when she again has the chance to grab ANOTHER axe and finish Nicola off, she runs away without it. Guess who ends up with it, and AGAIN goes chasing her with it and eventually chops off some of her fingers. Oh, and then, towards the end, when she shoves Nicola out a window, she has to go check the body. Surprise! He’s not dead, and now she’s about to be murdered by her hubby AGAIN. There are other weaknesses: the guy she runs into, appeals to for help, just so happens to be a rapist. More misogyny and torture. By this point in the film, I was looking at the time remaining and hoping the movie would end sooner, honestly. (Hoping even harder the Blind Zombies would show up.) Then, just when I’m about to pronounce the film a dull disappointment, there’s a twist, one that ALMOST fixes everything, almost patches over those cracks in the foundation I just mentioned. It ALMOST all makes sense at that point. I say almost because the swerve isn’t quite plausible for me. To give credit to screenwriters Lucas Pavetto (who also directed) and Massimo Vavassori, it’s a tough sell. I’m not sure how they could have made the stretch any more credible by that point. But I can’t altogether buy it. The square peg doesn’t quite fit into the round hole, though they sure gave it the old college try.
Lest anyone think I’m giving THE PERFECT HUSBAND a bad review, though, I should note that the acting is really good—the two leads, and Wright in particular, are superb—the cinematography is lovely, the overall production values are top-notch, and the pacing, aside from that sudden ninety-degree turn right before Nicola starts doing his best American Psycho impersonation, is properly in-tune. The only deficiencies with this one are in the storyline, and those aren’t enough to sink the ship. It lists a little, takes on some water. But even if you, like me, start thinking of jumping overboard somewhere along the journey, stay with it. THE PERFECT HUSBAND will get you back to port a little soggy, but otherwise unharmed.
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