It’s very hard to produce a high quality, entertaining low budget independent feature. The ones that succeed usually make it look so easy, and the ones that don’t make it appear as if it were an impossible goal. In my opinion Almost Perfect lands somewhere in the middle but far closer to the latter than the former, which is really too bad since the film didn’t have to end up that way. However, that’s usually the fate of most movies under the helm of a relatively inexperienced director, and Bertha Bay-Sa Pan falls firmly into that category.
Yup, I’m gonna have to place the blame here on the sophomore director who also happens to be the writer. That’s not always a bad thing (Frank Darabont and The Green Mile) except in this case the story and its presentation really could have benefited from another set of eyes. Collaboration is a key factor in avoiding self-indulgence in filmmaking, and without it you get a lot of bad choices from the script (it’s never a good idea to have the main character in every scene) to performances. The acting could be blamed on the actors, except in this case you’ve got a lot of talent who have been good in other projects giving sub-par performances, so it’s got to be the director. I mean, let’s just call it like it is.
Ivan Shaw is an exception as the utterly charming love interest, but he is wasted as the wannabe lover who appears to put up with a lot. It doesn’t really seem like that much while it’s happening, but then his dialogue at one point tells us that it is (see what I mean about the script? Whatever happened to “show, not tell”?). Sadly, Shaw’s appeal is diminished by Kelly Hu’s lack-luster interpretation of a woman put to the test by her demanding family who feels guilty about exposing her man to such horrors. Although it’s not all that horrific – we’re just supposed to think that it is because, well, Hu stresses out over it. At least I think she’s stressing. She does stay home from work and sulks on the couch. At least I think she’s sulking. It’s hard to tell. No doubt some big budget Hollywood film will come knocking for Shaw, but I have absolutely no similar hopes for Kelly Hu who lacks a range (any range) of emotion.
On the other hand, it’s always a delight to see Roger Rees in whatever he appears. And even though his role here is somewhat annoyingly vague as well as cliché he manages to bring to it a quality that is so likable that it transcends the faults of his poorly constructed character. The other supporting characters on the other hand lack the depth beyond the two dimensional page upon which they were written. The brother (Edison Chen) is so vaguely drawn that’s it’s impossible to form an opinion one way or the other about him. And Tina Chen as the mother is so annoying and completely one dimensional that it’s difficult to believe she has been a Golden Globe, Emmy and Drama Desk nominee. She comes off as a complete shrew for so long that by the time we figure out that her husband must have wronged her it’s too late for us to have any sympathy. Why keep it a secret?
All in all, Almost Perfect really misses the mark on so many levels I’m surprised the filmmakers didn’t reconsider the title. After all, they’re just asking for some obvious reaction comments from critics, and disappointment from audiences. Maybe next time the filmmakers won’t aim so high, and settle for less than perfect. Or even, just alright. I could have been on board with either one of those titles.