Every once in a while, you’ll find a cynic who proclaims Valentine’s Day is a holiday invented by greeting card companies in order to sell their products an additional time per year. Of course, that person is right. Weddings aren’t necessarily the same thing, but they’re close. The wedding industry is absurdly huge and I have to wonder why it’s so many little girls’ dream to have the perfect wedding. Did advertisers get to them? We have countless bridal magazines and reality shows like “Bridezillas,” either glorifying or deifying the act. We see those bridezillas as crazy, but they’re only into getting what they want, which is what they were programmed to want from a young age. The perfect wedding. It’s supposed to celebrate the love of two people, but it’s more of a corporate sham than Christmas. Weddings cost tons of money, get couples instantly in debt and they’re still not finished with the celebration they think they’re supposed to have. The honeymoon comes next. It’s all in an effort to achieve perfection. After the stress on themselves and they’re pocketbooks, they deserve an opportunity to get away from it all. That’s where the main characters find themselves in A Perfect Getaway.
Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are newlyweds. Both of their names start with “C,” isn’t that cute (Even worse, did you read about the couple with the exact same name)? They decide to travel to Hawaii for their honeymoon, more specifically the island of Kauai, to go hiking and a little adventure-seeking. Cliff is a recent film school graduate who’s sold his first script (making him a screenwriter, but not screenplay writer), which is currently in pre-production in Canada. However, another writer has been brought onto the project to do a two-week touch-up, thus negating his need to be on set and freeing him up for his honeymoon. What Cydney does is a bit more of an unknown, but she is the consummate newlywed: chipper at all times, missing Cliff after being away from him for just nine minutes and already having their lives planned out, with two boys and three girls.
C&C (music factory?) take their rented Jeep through the forestation and happen upon another recently wed couple, Kale and Cleo, hitchhiking their way up the mountain. Since vacationing in Hawaii as husband and wife is so new to Cliff and Cydney, Cliff decides to do something else uncharacteristic by stopping for the hitchhiking couple and offering them a ride. Cydney becomes immediately apprehensive to the idea, as does Cliff once he sees the tattooed, muscular Kale. The ride is eventually offered, but Kale, sensing their hesitation, angrily tells Cleo to get out of the Jeep and let them go on alone.
Cliff and Cydney get to where they’re going and set to have their first adventure, hiking up a cliff-side trail. They encounter a watery passage that if not approached properly would lead to their deaths far below. A former black ops officer, Nick, helps them navigate around the slippery surface and the couple attaches himself to him for the rest of the hike. Near the end of the day, the three of them run into a group of girls whose father had ordered them home, as police have reported the brutal slayings of a newlywed couple on another Hawaiian island just the day before. Cliff and Cydney follow Nick to a hideaway where his longtime girlfriend, Gina, resides. Kale and Cleo show up unannounced as well, and Cliff and Cydney become increasingly paranoid about whether the couple they’re hanging out with or the one they blew off is out to kill them next.
Steve Zahn as the lead in a tropical thriller may sound a bit odd at the outset, but I assure you, his and every one of the six main roles are cast to perfection. It may take until the end of the film to seem that way and I can’t give you specific details as to why without spoiling it, but trust me, it’s true. I’ve never seen Milla Jovovich actually act like a “girl,” before. It was a new experience, but I liked it. She’s always been relegated to portraying the badass heroine from the Resident Evil franchise, Ultraviolet and The Fifth Element. You’d never see her in a romantic comedy and she doesn’t need to reduce herself to that. She’s great here. The standout performance goes to Timothy Olyphant (or Oly-phantasitc as Kevin Smith refers to him) as Nick, though. It’s a shame the star-making role Hollywood handed to him was in Hitman, as he deserved better and proves so in this. Give him something better, Hollywood!
The film was written and directed by David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick), who is only one person, but I wanted to touch upon his job titles individually. You get a sense that David Twohy the screenwriter had a lot of fun with this script. The majority of the film is conversational, with characters telling stories to another and the viewer becomes enrapt with the soliloquies. This is especially the case with the interaction between Cliff and Nick. Nick is a war hero, or at least that’s what all his stories pertain to, who envisions Cliff writing a film about his life. Nick is constantly pitching ideas at him and they’re able to hold conversations about screenwriting. In a similar way to Scream, the screenwriting discussions had between them echo elements in the film we’re watching before our eyes with self-reflexive ingenuity. These are conventions Twohy plays with that the audience can enjoy.
Although a large portion of his script is talkative, Twohy the director certainly doesn’t forget that his film is set in the thriller genre. He possesses the ability to create tension in minute events and even when the audience feels they’re on top of what’s taking place, trying outguess the filmmaker, a new wrinkle is thrown in. A great sequence combining humor, suspense and great visual and aural design comes in a scene where Cliff and Nick sift through vegetation looking for a goat to take down for dinner. Twohy lets character traits move the action and it comes together masterfully. There is a ten-minute or so sequence toward the end of the film in which the killers are revealed, where Twohy used black-and-white nightvision to convey flashback, which I thought carried on too long, but ended up being necessary for the finale.
A Perfect Getaway may not live up to its prestigious title, but it’s at least a good getaway full of thrills and great characterization. Again, the casting is perfect and you’ll know why when you see it. Another positive is for any man looking to get married, but not quite jazzed on spending more money on the honeymoon, maybe this will help talk your wife out of it.