The Perfect Host (2010, Nick Tomnay)

The Perfect Host is clearly on a budget. It’s one of those carefully constructed on a budget movies, where you see the inside of the police station but never the outside and you can hear the other detectives, but it’s always just talky cops Nathaniel Parker and Joseph Will. They’re working a bank robbery, which happens before the movie starts–Host starts with bank robber Clayne Crawford’s escape and his inability to get away from the cops.

Ish.

We never see the cops chasing him because budget. Director Tomnay does okay with the opening “escape drive” through L.A. Not great, but okay. For a while, Host never bites off more than it can chew. And thanks to David Hyde Pierce—top-billed but rarely the protagonist–Host can chew quite a bit. The entire movie’s centered around giving Hyde Pierce material to chew through.

Actually, it’s about him throwing a dinner party for his guests and Crawford hijacking it but then—of course—it turns out he went to the wrong house and he’s got no idea what’s in store for him with Hyde Pierce or his guests.

The first act sets up Crawford, sets up Hyde Pierce, then the second act has the party getting more and more extreme while the cops sit around the office and wait for other people to do work (their boss is out, which figures in later, and while affable they don’t seem particularly competent or even enthusiastic). Third act is a series of plot twists—after some big plot twists at the first to second act transition—but the third act just keeps doing endings. It’s like Tomnay and co-writer Krishna Jones don’t want it to end so they keep dragging it out. Or they can’t let it end at 70 minutes because no one will take it seriously. But after a certain point everything is a tack-on to another tack-on, with one of the final twist’s component details being more interesting—potentially—than even the twist itself. Though it also could just be a cheap tack-on ending. After the other cheap tack-on ending. And the other cheap tack-on ending.

A lot of the problem is Crawford, whose performance reminds of a Christian Slater impression and not a particularly good one. It doesn’t always matter because Hyde Pierce—one of the many shames of the film is when Tomnay ran out of close-up setups for Hyde Pierce, so after carefully and exquisitely surveying his facial expression work, the micro-expressions and whatnot, Tomnay backs up to a very bland narrative distance for the rest of the film. Kind of looking in over Crawford’s shoulder at the party unfolding.

Oh, right, Crawford’s backstory. We slowly learn the deal with the bank robbery, which then has like three related twists. What’s strangest about the twists is how disconnected they are from Hyde Pierce; yes, some of them involve Hyde Pierce, but most of them are just kindling to the runtime fire. If only Tomnay and Jones had figured out a way to embrace the actual characters and give them a story instead of tricking the characters and the audience at every turn. The script’s nowhere near inventive enough to get by on its twists.

And Crawford is a grease rag. It’s hard to believe they couldn’t have gotten anyone else.

You know, like actual Christian Slater. Or, someone we know for sure can improve on Crawford, so like, Seann William Scott.

Anyway; The Perfect Host is a great Hyde Pierce performance in a wanting part and production.

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