Perfect Couple, A (1979)

Perfect Couple, A (1979)

“I don’t think you two should be kissing while I’m suturing.”

An aspiring singer (Marta Heflin) and a Greek antiques dealer (Paul Dooley) meet through a video dating service, but find their budding romance foiled by their overbearing families and roommates.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Dating
  • Musicals
  • Robert Altman Films
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Star-Crossed Lovers

The opening scene of this would-be romantic comedy by Robert Altman promises an amusing look at the vagaries of dating: an obviously uncomfortable couple out on their first date get drenched by a rainstorm at the Hollywood Bowl, only to find their increasingly disastrous evening together miraculously redeemed by an electrifying goodnight kiss.

Unfortunately, however, the film completely fails to live up to its initial potential. Most egregiously, Dooley’s character comes across as obnoxious: he’s pushy, self-absorbed, and possessive (he beats up another man who wants to go out with Heflin), and is rarely worthy of our sympathy.

Meanwhile, waifish Heflin is, despite her fine voice, utterly unbelievable as a backup singer in a communal rock band (her bandmates are all ten times more energetic than her), and her distractingly skeletal body makes one cringe for her well-being.

Side stories involving members of Dooley’s overbearing Greek family fall utterly flat:

… as does a recurring visual “joke” involving a true “perfect couple” (Fred Bier and Jette Seear), whose presence is meant to serve as a comedic counterpart to Dooley and Heflin’s troubled courtship.

The film’s primary redeeming quality is Heflin’s band (“Keepin’ Em Off the Streets”), whose incessant rehearsals inappropriately dominate the screenplay, but ultimately provide a welcome respite from the tedious storyline.

Note: Watch for charismatic Ted Neeley (“Jesus Christ Superstar”) as the band’s domineering lead singer — what inspired casting!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A host of fun ’70s-era songs by “Keepin’ Em Off the Streets”

Must See?
No; unless you’re a true Altman-completist, feel free to skip this one.


One thought on “Perfect Couple, A (1979)

  1. Not a must at all. The assessment is very much on the mark – a real Altman misfire.

    In fact, since the assessment is so spot-on, I’ve little to add. The film is tedious beyond belief. Even the rehearsals (which, as stated, “inappropriately dominate the screenplay”) – as well as the performances – by the band are (fine voices notwithstanding) filled with nothing but mediocre songs…and we unfortunately get to hear many of them in almost-full versions. Neeley may have been cast well as the group’s leader, but his character is one-note and grating.

    The only real bright spot is found in the character of Dooley’s sympathetic sister, a thankless role played well by Belita Moreno, who started her career in a few Altman films, had a memorable small role in ‘Mommie Dearest’, and has been steadily employed since.

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