Friday, February 02, 2007

Movie Review - "The Perfect Stranger"

Back in 1981, the must-see arthouse film was "My Dinner with Andre." Starring Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, almost the entire movie took place in a New York restaurant, where Shawn and Gregory dined and conversed about a wide-range of philosophical topics. It was a strangely compelling film, with Gregory weaving weird tales about Buddhist monks, experimental theater, being buried alive, and trips to the Sahara and Tibet, and Shawn desperately trying to manufacture conversational seques to bring the conversation back to reality.

When I first heard about "The Perfect Stranger," I thought, OK, it's "My Dinner with Andre" for Christians: "My Dinner with Jesus." And it is - but it is far more than that.

Pamela Brumley plays Nikki, a housewife and mother with a strained marriage and trouble at work. Brumley seems stiff in the early scenes, constrained by a script that - perhaps because it is based on a novel - has a few too many one-liners and sarcastic ripostes for my taste. But her performance becomes more and more compelling as the film progresses, and at the end, I found myself deeply moved. Her character progresses from hard-edged attorney to adoring child of God - an emotional range few actresses have been asked to protray, and Brumely does a superb job.

Jefferson Moore plays the Perfect Stranger. His performance is critical; if he's not 100% believable, the film falls flat on its face. Fortunately, Moore is up to the task. His character is charming, witty, loving, and wise.

But what makes this film so much more than "Andre" is the content. It contains one of the most attractive and winsome presentations of the Gospel I have ever seen. All the "Big Objections" to Christianity are woven into the dinner conversation - from "Aren't all religions basically the same," to "how can a Good God allowing suffering," to "how can Christians be so arrogant as to think that they have the only way to God?" Each question and objection is gently and clearly responded to by the Stranger. And as he does so, he is slowly opening Nikki's heart to the truth, healing years of doubt and pain.

The film, ultimately, is a apologetic for Christ in a pluralistic and secular world. Its message is as old and as true as the Gospel itself, but its presentation is refreshingly new.

I highly recommend this film to all.

For more information click here.