In “Perfect Strangers,” a new film from Mexico directed by Manolo Caro, three heterosexual married couples, and one fellow attending stag, submit to a queasy dinner party game, one suggested by the hostess — a psychologist. Tonight, they’re not going to be rude and leave the table with their phones whenever they get a text alert or an incoming call. Instead, the guests all place their phones at the center of the table, and when there’s an alert, they will reveal to their friends their texts and Facebook messages and hold conversations with incoming callers on speaker. This promises to be a revealing evening, and that promise is fulfilled.
And if you think this sounds like a nifty premise for a contemporary adult drama, you are hardly alone. This movie is a remake of an Italian one from 2017, which has also been remade in Greece, Turkey, Hungary, France and South Korea.
I haven’t seen the other versions, but this picture is well acted (one of the cast members, Manuel García-Rulfo, has a growing profile in Hollywood; he was seen last year in “Widows” and “Sicario: Day of the Soldado”) and maintains narrative interest without ever grabbing the viewer by the lapels.
It’s not surprising that at first the movie fakes the viewer out, with innocuous incoming calls and one character prancing the table with a cellphone borrowed from a resident teen. Then one husband guiltily asks the single member of the group to swap phones with him so he’ll be the recipient of an expected racy text. The turnabout — in which he is hoisted by his own petard — is squirmy but not as resonant as it would like to be. The movie bogs down toggling between melodrama and parable, leading to a denouement that plays like a semi-homage to Luis Buñuel’s “Belle de Jour,” always a nice movie to be reminded of.
If this sounds like your thing, don’t hold out for the logically inevitable American remake: The rights to the property for this territory were bought in 2017 by the now-defunct Weinstein Company.