Dinner date – The Perfect Host review

The Perfect HostStarring David Hyde Pierce and Clayne Crawford. Directed by Nick Tomnay. Rated M. By Hilary Simmons.

The Perfect Host is The Usual Suspects filtered through Funny Games, or perhaps Swimming with Sharks fused with Sleuth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come close to being nearly as good as any of the above, but it’s worth seeing just for David Hyde Pierce’s buoyantly bananas performance as a sublimely deranged sociopath. Pierce, best known as the neurotic snob Niles on Frasier, is in his element as a lizard-lidded lunatic. John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) is desperately seeking a hideout after a $300,000 bank heist and cons his way into Warwick Wilson’s (David Hyde Pierce) upscale Los Angeles home. What follows is arguably the best line in the film; with supremely rational cool, Warwick objects: “You can’t kill me; I’m having a dinner party.”

Pierce then proceeds to disco-dance his way through a dazzling array of psychoses with such entrancingly effete style and sardonic wit that it almost makes up for the contrived storyline and convoluted plot. Almost. The premise of the film – home invasion gone horribly wrong – has quite literally been done to death, and done decidedly better. Australian director and screenwriter Nick Tomnay seems out of his depth dealing with the implausible number of twists that he and Krishna Jones have written into the screenplay; in terms of plot, The Perfect Host peters out two-thirds of the way through.

Still, it’s Tomnay’s directorial debut. Warwick’s unhinged capering as he consummately conducts a chic dinner party around his half-drugged captive – complete with conga lines, canapés and duck confit – shows that he has the capacity to combine dark comedy and dramatic tension. Based on his short film, The Host  – which won the AFI Best Short Film Award in 1999 –  it’s frustrating to see the intrigue of Pierce’s deadpan diabolical sociopath undermined by increasingly hackneyed explanations and a needless subplot involving a visually appealing, double-dealing bank teller.

Perhaps The Perfect Host just tries a little too hard to introduce surprise after surprise to its audience – much like a socially inept host who hasn’t yet mastered the gyrations to Car Wash for his gaggle of guests.

3/5

The Perfect Host is now available on DVD.

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