I was unable to attend the independent film festivals that initially offered Nicole Conn’s latest artistic endeavor, A Perfect Ending, but I am happy to say that I was able to download and watch the movie now that the DVD sales date has come and gone. As I provide insights into my own viewing experience, I will try my best not to spoil any part of this film. It would be a grave disservice to do so. It is always my intent to encourage the personal viewing experience rather than to spoil the emotional catalyst by recapping and revealing what should be felt first hand. I take extra care with A Perfect Ending as I feel strongly this film needs to be seen in its entirety and then discussed in depth.
Personally, I believe A Perfect Ending is Nicole Conn’s best offering to date. This movie is certainly not a warmed over remake of Conn’s very successful, Elena Undone, although no one would blame Nicole for sticking with this very balanced equation and mass producing it. Just ask Coke and Komen, when you find a fan-pleasing formula, don’t fuck with it. It is in this sense, I applaud the new direction of “Perfect”. True, there is that element of girl meets girl in both films, but there are layers of a stronger foundation here.
Unlike “Elena”, Rebecca Westridge (Barbara Niven) is already undone; she’s a lukewarm mess. Contractually obligated to a decades long, passionless marriage, and suffering the guilt of what she perceives as failed motherhood, Rebecca continues to sacrifice her own substance for the symbolism of a happy family. Searching for stimulation more rewarding than lunch at the country club, and less hollow than the bottom of a vodka bottle, Rebecca turns to her best friends for help.
Kelly (Imelda Corcoran) and Shirin (Mary Jane Wells) are a lesbian couple that, quite frankly, I would like to have seen more of on screen. Their ease of interaction with each other, and with Rebecca, provides a welcome and relaxed atmosphere thoughout the film. Budget limitations are certainly understood, but this is the point that I ask Ms. Conn to consider a lesbian buddy movie with these two actresses. Mary Jane Wells’ fortitude at plucky snarkyness begs to be expounded upon. And please, I plead, her natural accent is essential to the next character. Yes, I digress, but it had to be said.
To spice up Rebecca’s mundane life, her concerned friends give her the advice to seek out a call girl. Now, I said call girl, not the meth-head hookers you see at the truck stop, but the high-priced Pretty Woman variety that come with designer wardrobe and Morgan Fairchild as a madam. The buttoned-up, wealthy housewife summons the courage to make the call (cue the vodka), and what happens next is a panacea of pearl-clutching and a comedy of semi-erotic errors that puts a young, beautiful Paris (Jessica Clark – sans true blood, fangs, and Lilith fare) in Rebecca’s bed.
It is here that I would like to uncharacteristically gush a little. Barbara Niven, you are one hell of a beautiful and courageous woman. Not only do you stand before us naked in every sense of the word, you turn slowly around so that the viewer can take in and appreciate the visage of a real woman. In a time of ageism and malnourished waifs that scream less about sex appeal and more about just needing to eat a cookie, you audaciously allow us to celebrate the ageless beauty of every line, mark, and imperfection of an authentically sculpted female form. Bravo.
What happens next is a May-December romance that culminates in a mutual desire, love, and respect that strengthens two hearts limited by personal loss. Choosing to live rather than simply exist, Paris emancipates herself from a binding guilt and lets go of her tragic past, releasing the stifled beauty that is within her. Rebecca becomes empowered and relinquishes her Sunnybrook, Stepford persona for one of a heroic and a determined woman. Transformed, she soars. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of inadequacy, she leaves in her wake contrails of confidence for her lover (and her daughter) to follow.
In describing her film, Nicole Conn has suggested that sometimes a perfect ending is not what you expect it to be. I would certainly agree. And though I wouldn’t characterize the final frames of this film as the romantic leads walking off into the sunset, I think is is more fitting to say they are waking up in the dawn of a new day. I’ll stop here for fear of saying too much, but I would love to discuss this film more in a follow-up.
Thank you, Nicole and Barbara for taking me on this journey. Where else could I have experienced the extraordinary love of Paris without ever having to pack a bag?