Rebecca (Barbara Niven) is a rather uptight, middle-aged, middle-class women who’s used to getting what she wants – from everyone except her prig of a husband (John Heard) – but there’s one thing she’s never had; an orgasm. When she confides her secret to some friends they suggest she hire an escort. After all, who will know how to pleasure a woman better than another woman?
Rebecca is unsure but makes an appointment. However when the escort, Paris (Jessica Clark), arrives, it’s a prickly encounter, which begins a cat and mouse flirtation over several ‘dates’, with Rebecca intrigued by what Paris can offer but not sure whether she can make the leap. As they get closer we learn the truth about their lives and how they both ended up in the position they’re in.
A Perfect Ending is an unexpected mix of the good and bad. The characters are often rich and complex, but then an incredibly cheesy cliché sweeps in and nearly undoes all the good work elsewhere. Likewise, often the filmmaking is strong and direct, but then there are moments that seem incredibly amateurish. They often come at times when there’s some sort of information the movie wants to impart, but rather than finding a way to integrate it organically into the film, they’re dealt with in soft-focussed, slow-mo flashbacks (not all the films flashbacks are bad, but some are almost painful to watch), or with ugly sentenced of blurted out exposition.
These moments are most frustrating because so much of the rest of the movie is so good. Normally when a movie is about a woman’s erotic awakenings, it’s sexploitation that’s really all about allowing men to get their voyeuristic rocks off, but A Perfect Ending is the opposite of that, erotic but taking females desires, thoughts and lives seriously. In amongst the clichés there’s an unusually insightful look at two women and what they’re looking for in life and the way events have shaped them (even if those events are often a tad melodramatic).
It means A Perfect Ending is a very good movie as long as you’re prepared to overlook the cheesy moments and slightly student-film edges. They are quite frustrating as with a bit more script polishing and a stronger hand in the editing suite it could all have been worked out and it would feel much more like the complex character study it is. But it’s only that underneath a rather cheap TV movie veneer.
Thankfully though the movie has an ace card in Barbara Niven, who gives an excellent performance as Rebecca. She’s superb as a woman at a crossroads in her life, who is afraid of the opportunity that presents itself, even if it may be her last chance. Jessica Clark is also good as prostitute with a tragic past, Paris, whilst Morgan Fairchild has a fun cameo as her madam.
It all adds up to a film that’s as good as it is bad, as complex as it is simplistic and as original as it is clichéd. It’s great to see a film that takes a serious look at women’s lives and presents sex and erotic pleasures from a genuinely female perspective – indeed the way it deals with it really underlines how the vast majority of female sexuality is presented from a male perspective, even when it insists it’s not – but it’s just a shame a little more time couldn’t have been spent ironing out the clumsy edges that mean what’s very nearly excellent only comes across as okay.
Overall Verdict: A fascinating, complex look at female desire that’s almost undone by moments of cliché, melodrama and slight amateurishness. It still works but it’s not all it could be.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac