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  • "A Perfect Couple" comes from a period when Altman was trying to make films through his own Lion's Gate company with financial backing from Fox (courtesy of Alan Ladd, Jr.). Working, in the main, with very slender budgets, he seems to have been trying to do work that could break even financially even when the films didn't expand much beyond the small audiences that most of his movies had typically attracted. In the end, the effort failed. He was rapidly losing the support of even critics who had long been sympathetic, and the audience for small, experimental films was drying up.

    Most of the films from the Lion's Gate/Fox period have a flimsy undeveloped quality to them. His work from M*A*S*H to Nashville had all started from someone else's script even though most of those films would do little more than retain the basic structural elements, the rest being altered/improvised during rehearsal and actual shooting. But he had something to work off, react to (or against) and build from. By the time of "A Perfect Couple," Altman's name was showing up as screenwriter (usually in collaboration with someone from a previous film) which is a fair indication that these movies started shooting with little or no script at all, just an idea, some characters, and some sense of where it all should go. The financing was there, and he had to take advantage of it, hoping to pull something off on the spur of the moment. It worked with "3 Women," but he was less successful here and in "Quintet."

    Paul Dooley is a middle-aged divorced man living at home where his life is ruled by his rich father (since they're Greeks, his father is naturally played by Titos Vandis). Marta Heflin is a shy aimless young woman who's a member of a rock band and lives with them all in a kind of self-contained community in a downtown L.A. loft. They meet through a computer dating service, come together, fall out with each other, come together again, and fall out. Most of the film deals with their efforts to kindle a romance in spite of the obstacles placed in their way by the respective family groups each belongs to.

    Altman seems to have intended a culture clash comedy, and, in some ways, this film grew out of "A Wedding" in which Dooley and Heflin both had roles, and where Altman set two dissimilar families against one another with fair results. Here, though, the cultures that clash are both sketched out so quickly, and with such broad strokes, that "A Perfect Couple" could play as self-parody, if self-parody were so obviously not intended. Dooley makes the best of it. He's able to find (or create) funny moments, but they're just moments. There's not enough here for them to integrate into any kind of whole. Heflin is less successful, but then her character is, in general, so passive that there's not much character to play.

    Not much develops here because so much time is given over to the rock band (Keepin Em Off the Streets) that Heflin belongs to. Every time the film starts going somewhere, we get another song that's played out to full length (and there are 11 of them in the movie). The band was formed by Altman cohort (and "Perfect Couple" co-screenwriter) Allan Nicholls, and "A Perfect Couple" seems to exist as much to showcase the band as to tell the film's story. Maybe the thought was that if the band (or any of its songs) hit, that would be enough to propel the movie to some kind of success.

    In the end, the movie was dismissed by most as a light curiosity, and it went nowhere. If it's interesting, it's interesting as an experiment on Altman's part to exist in the commercial mainstream making quick, cheap movies that wouldn't need to bring in large audiences to succeed. But Fox, after a management shake-up, lost interest in Altman, and he lost their financial backing before Lion's Gate was able to make anything that succeeded (even on Altman's terms). Altman, for his part, would spend most of the '80's making even smaller, less expensive films in an effort to keep his hand in.
  • This movie had feeble comedy, no chemistry, and a plot that slogged along as if wading through knee-deep mud. Marta Heflin, presumably cast for her swan-like, melancholic countenance, was unbearably dull. It was as if she was in a Quaalude haze throughout the entire film. I could barely sit through the repeated almost-but-not-quite hookup scenes, watching Heflin affect doe-eyed bashfulness while flimsy garments were peeled off her skeletal shoulders. As for the band scenes, which accounted for nearly half the film, think vocal chords strained very nearly to rupturing and lots of white polyester vests. This movie is a bona-fide stinker. Were there any characters that were at all interesting? Well, there was a crying baby that made a few appearances.
  • I loved this movie from the first time I saw it. Sure, it's basically a new take on Romeo and Juliet, but it's still a good flick. The music is undoubtedly the best part {especially when "Bobbie" sings 'Lonely Millionaire (swoon)}--if Keepin' 'Em Off the Streets were a real band, I'd be their biggest fan.

    Does anyone know how I might get a copy of A Perfect Couple?
  • Off the wall romantic comedy with one of the strangest plots I've ever seen. A middle aged man who still lives at home with his entire family falls for a woman 20 years his junior. This causes tension within his family, especially with the domineering father, a real tyrant. This guy is well into his fifties and still lets his father tell him he can't bring a woman home with him as though he were still a teen. Very weird family. The woman is a real loser type who needs a man to feed off of emotionally. They haven't got a chance. Very entertaining film with lots of shrill singing sequences and some good, and at times bizarre, dialogue. Great ending as the camera shows us the perfect couple after the rice has fallen from their hair and then pans over to the other perfect couple cynically revealing history in the process of repeating itself.
  • This is a wonderful film with an out-of-sight uncredited series of great songs. Strangely, it's not included on Yahoo's list of Altman films. Offers great insight into the adult dating scene. Henry Gibson (of Altman's Nashville) has a non-singing part. Singing cast includes one of the Neville Brothers. Think of it as Nashville with an extended boy-meets-girl plot and no political overtones.
  • I finally got around to seeing this for-many-years-as-good-as-lost Altman film, and I must say, I was extremely impressed. It is a highly unusual piece. Altman biographer Patrick McGilligan says "There is not another movie like it in the Altman canon," and he's not kidding; there is scarcely another movie like it in anyone's canon. The closest I can think of is George Romero's also criminally underrated There's Always Vanilla, which also deals with the arc of a romance between "ordinary" people with no touch of Hollywood iconography about them.

    The film is conceived in terms of a number of binaries: two families, a rigidly patriarchal Greek family and a rock music collective with its own sort-of-patriarch; classical music and pop music, which join hands in the climax; a "perfect couple" of two decidedly imperfect, non-glamorous people, and a near-silent "imperfect couple" of two glamor-pusses, whose path repeatedly crosses that of the perfect couple, but in ways that only the audience perceives. (The perfect couple meets through a video dating service that is a direct precursor to the Internet dating services of our own day; that lends the film an oddly timely-contemporary touch.)

    The rock music collective, Keeping 'Em Off the Streets, co-formed by Altman collaborator Allan Nicholls, actually existed and concertized a couple of times, but failed to win a recording contract. (The soundtrack was preserved on Altman's own Lion's Gate label; I recently scored a copy of this rare LP.) As many of the reviewers here at the IMDb enthuse, the music is quite delightful, and rather difficult to pigeonhole, with rock, pop, jazz, and theater music elements. There are a lot of musicians, a lot of singers, a lot of people (and even a dog) just hanging around, in somewhat elaborate and rather magical spaces (courtesy of master designer Leon Ericksen), and the musical numbers seem to emerge from the ambiance. The film is very driven by the songs.

    Adding to the flavor of A Perfect Couple is a remarkably casual-positive attitude toward several gay and lesbian characters, so much so that Vito Russo singled the film out in his book The Celluloid Closet as being "special" for its era in its recognition of a "happy, well-adjusted" lesbian couple as a "family."

    In the lead roles, Paul Dooley is remarkably winning, and Marta Heflin has a mysterious, somewhat withdrawn quality that suddenly announces itself forcefully in her one solo number, "Won't Somebody Care", which is also one of the great musical sequences in all of movies, if you ask me -- right up there with Keith Carradine's "I'm Easy" in Nashville.

    The next forgotten Altman film that needs to be rehabilitated is H.E.A.L.T.H., which Helene Keyssar praises most interestingly in her book Robert Altman's America. I saw it only once many years ago and am eager to see it again.
  • "Nashville" represented a critical and commercial high point for Altman. He followed it with a series of films that puzzled the critics and alienated his already slender audience (the critics loved his overlapping dialogue and generally unhappy endings but audiences didn't). "Buffalo Bill and the Indians", "A Wedding", and worst of all, "Quintet".

    Altman was running out of studio backing and critical support. He had never really been a money maker and by 1979 with "Jaws" and "Star Wars" Hollywood had discovered the special effects summer blockbuster. It was tired of auteurs like him and Bogdanovich and Coppola, particularly auteurs who didn't make money (auteurs who remain the darlings of the critics like Woody Allen and Scorsese and don't cost too much money are OK.). Altman needed to show Hollywood that he could make money.

    "A Perfect Couple" and "Popeye" were Altman's attempts to make movies he hoped would reach out to the general audience and be hits at the box office.
  • Paul Dooley and Marta Heflin play a most decidedly IMperfect couple in Robert Altman's version of a romantic comedy. His claim at the time (justified) is that Hollywood had always allowed only beautiful people to fall in love, so he wanted to make a romance with a couple of ordinary folk. He succeeded when he found the paunchy Dooley and the distractingly skinny (nearly anorexic) Heflin for his leads, but the film itself is not much of a success. This came out during Altman's "experimental" period, meaning he threw together some disparate elements and hoped for the best. Actually, it's quite accessible for Altman, considering "Quintet" came out in the same year, and it's one of his least Altman-like projects. Unfortunately, it's those very qualities that also make it one of his least interesting and ugliest from a purely visual standpoint.

    The film does boast some good if dated music though, performed by the real-life band Keepin' Em Off the Streets, led by Ted Neely, most known for playing the role of Jesus in the film version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" (and whom I saw perform the role on stage in a touring version).

    Grade: C
  • Possibly Altman's least well known theatrically released film, done in an era where he was making a lot of duds. Personally, I don't consider any Altman films duds – they're all interesting, at least. And this one is no exception. It's a quirky romantic comedy starring Paul Dooley and Marta Heflin. Dooley comes from a stuffy, old-fashioned Greek family steeped in classical music, and Heflin is a rock singer living in a hippie commune. The two meet through a video dating service, and the film depicts their rocky road to love. Altman's direction is very good, as usual, the script has a good palindromic structure, and I quite like the original songs. One big problem that I had is that Dooley comes on way too strong on that first date and the day afterward, almost creepy. Not a great film, but certainly a film that shouldn't be as forgotten as it is.
  • Very bad acting of the 2 main actors and a story to die of boredom !
  • Perhaps I'm part of a minority of film goers who seek out what is best in a film rather than what is worst, but it is now 26 years after the release of this film, and I'm still flipping through movie soundtracks at the local music stores, looking for the soundtrack to "A Perfect Couple". I still remember walking out of the theater at the end of watching this film when it was originally released, making a note to buy the soundtrack of the film, if not the film, itself, as soon as it was released. Sadly, it seems that neither have ever been released, and I, for one, have never seen the film show up on television, in spite of looking for the past 26 years. The music would have made a perfect film soundtrack, particularly because it was representative of a certain genre of music of the '70s. The film, itself, may not have been deserving of any awards, but it was certainly a great deal better than many of the films that have made it to video over the years. Sadly, the only way that a fan seems to be able to get a copy of the film is through the occasional EBAY sale of a bootlegged copy, which is of poor quality, but better than nothing until a legitimate version finally becomes available.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    An absolutely miserable film from beginning to end. How could anyone conceive of putting Paul Dooley in the lead here?

    Perhaps the best part of this awful picture is the downpour at the beginning.

    Both Dooley and his new found girlfriend are with dysfunctional people if ever there were. Dooley was supposed to have been married before but seems to be unbelievably tied to his Greek family with a string. The father exhibits too much control and does it really take the sudden death of his sister to awaken him to the fact that he is a man.

    The girlfriend is living with all sorts of characters. Everything seems to get in the way of their ill-fated romance including themselves. I guess because they seem to be mismatched that they wind up as a match in the end.

    The writing here is terribly stilted and the performances aren't that much better.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I guess since "The Odd Couple" was already taken as a title, Robert Altman decided "A Perfect Couple" instead. This film seems about 10 years behind the times in its story of a young woman (Marta Heflin) involved with a seemingly hippie "Up With People!" type singing group who meets the portly Paul Dooley and their strange encounters while dealing with the others' eccentric groups and family and just trying to find time to learn about each other. Another missed opportunity for a potentially challenging emotional film about less than perfect people seeking happiness in a relationship, "A Perfect Couple" is just bizarre. Heflin, who is a cross between Shelley Duvall (an Altman regular), Olive Oyl (whom Duvall would play the following year) and Laraine Newman, isn't unattractive, but her character really isn't all that interesting. Dooley, too, has some issues. While I don't mind a film focusing on the usual supporting characters trying to be a leading player rather than a character type, I just never found myself interested in their situations, mainly because they really seem to be too distant as people to really care about.

    As far as the actors, I did like the fact that the majority of the cast is made up with unknowns. Of the cast, I only knew Dooley (of "Breaking Away" fame), Henry Gibson, Dimytra Arlyss and Dennis Franz; The rest of them to me were totally unfamiliar, so I did feel like I was watching something fresh on that perspective. Of those unknowns, Titos Vandis stood out as Dooley's tyrannical papa, and after researching his credits, I will certainly look for him in his other work. Two scenes that will probably remain in my memory are where Dooley and Heflin are trying to be alone but are interrupted, first by Vandis and his disapproving family, and later in a hotel room by Heflin's freaky pals. For connoisseurs of Altman's work, this will probably be a curio, but for others, it might be a good idea to know the type of film you are getting yourself into.
  • This is unlike any Altman movie I have ever encountered. No snarkiness, no clever dialogue, no overlapping story lines. This is just a nice, simple love story. Paul Dooley is nice as a middle aged man still controlled by his father. Marta Heflin was a harder character to pin down. Maybe it was because I was only concentrating on her excessive thinness (her next role cast her as a concentration camp victim, if that gives you some idea), but I couldn't get a read on her at all. Her face was fairly blank, but her voice was outstanding! She belongs to a communal singing group led by the insanely talented, and so sexy, Ted Neely! We see many of the bands (Keepin Em off the Streets) songs performed in their entirety, and it is fantastic! I will be scouring the internet for copies of their music! Overall, sweet love story,with some nice sibling relations thrown in, but the reason I will keep coming back is the music!
  • This decidedly unconventional romantic comedy is watchable, but is neither very romantic, nor very funny; more often it seems like a promo for a pop music band. One half of the "perfect couple", Marta Heflin, has some appeal, but Paul Dooley lacks charm, and their instant connection is not believable. The liveliest performance is given by Ann Ryerson as a horny possible date, but unfortunately her part is very small. Still, at least compared to the same year's "H.E.A.L.T.H", also by Robert Altman, which I saw yesterday, this one has a bit more structure to it. **1/2 out of 4.