05th Apr2021

‘An Imperfect Murder’ DVD Review

by Dom Hastings

Stars: Sienna Miller, Nick Matthews, Charles Grodin, Alec Baldwin, Colleen Camp, John Buffalo Mailer, Steven Prescod | Written and Directed by James Toback

“This is not a dream.”

Running at 71 minutes, semi-disgraced writer-director, James Toback, has managed to add new meanings to the term, “pretentious,”, with his latest (and hopefully last) film, An Imperfect Murder aka The Private Life of a Modern Woman. The picture stars Sienna Miller in what generally feels like a one-woman-show, only to be infiltrated by annoying and suspicious characters.

Vera Lockman (Miller), an out-of-work actress living in a New York apartment, endures violent nightmares featuring her abusive and frightening ex-boyfriend, Sal (Nick Matthews). The sequence, entailing a loaded gun wielded by the ex, results in the sudden death of its carrier. Was it a nightmare or flashback?

The subsequent visit to her apartment made by an academic writing a thesis on the theme of murder on makes matters worse as all Vera has on her can be only one thing: death. A short visit, yet frustrating nonetheless, Vera’s apartment transcends into a popular destination for supporting characters: veteran actors Charles Grodin and Alec Baldwin turn up, but not together. Grodin, playing Vera’s grandfather, Arthur, arrives with his daughter / Vera’s mother, Elaine (Colleen Camp) for dinner. Sadly, for all involved, Arthur suffers from dementia – and it’s bad, probably the only gripping and heartfelt entity of this film. Baldwin on the other had, is Dt. McCutcheon of the NYPD, inquiring about the disappearance of Vera’s ex, Sal – his presence feels marginally creepy, yet he possesses an attitude in that he knows Sal was cut into tiny pieces.

Existentially, An Imperfect Murder views like a mashup of a woman haunted by the trauma of violence and domestic abuse, mixed with a rodeo of mindless and pointless conversations. Repetitions of flashbacks in conjunction with Vera’s narration, add layers to this aspect of the film, but there is a failure to truly solidify any true notion of what this film wants to be. In one instance, Vera pays two lads on the street to carry a storage box into the boot of her car, containing the deceased – Miller plays the sequence fairly straight, yet the actions are too ridiculous to read the film in a legitimate manner. The placement and inclusion of a law enforcement character should really drive the crime aspect too, but typically, it really doesn’t.

Ultimately, An Imperfect Murder could have been a much more interesting, intellectual and inteliigant story had it been produced as a short with complete emphasis on the mental torture of Vera after the hideous events involving her ex. This could have been an important text on the female psychological process of abuse and violence. Heck, An Imperfect Murder could have even been an intense and enthralling crime film, but it feels like that was avoided at all costs. The foundations for either are in place, but unfortunately, this film fails to execute anything truly worthwhile after the first five minutes.

* 1/5

An Imperfect Murder is released on DVD today from High Fliers Films.

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