AN IMPERFECT MURDER, originally foisted on film festivals in 2017 as The Private Life of a Modern Woman, was written & directed by James Toback. Re-titled to try and intrigue streaming audiences in 2020, the slight 71-minute piece gets off to an aggravating start, with some pretentious camera work and “This Is Important” classical music (Shostakovitch) backing repeated views of the Bosch canvas “The Garden Of Earthly Delights”. Neither Dmitri’s portent-loaded notes nor Hieronymus’ fantastical brush can salvage Toback’s artsy indulgence. Some precise work from three actors is commendable, but this pseudo-smart trifle should have stayed an idea.
An actress (Sienna Miller) has a nightmare where she kills her drug-pusher lover. When she wakes up, it turns out she wasn’t dreaming. She tries to hide the crime, but her guilt—over it, and other self-disguised compartments of her life—assail her during meetings with acquaintances, family members and the law. One is a query session with a film-maker friend (played by Toback, oozing honed insincerity), another involves her Alzheimer-stricken father (Charles Grodin), another is probing from a suspicious detective (Alec Baldwin). It ends with a plop.
The greatly undervalued Miller is always interesting, even with material as thin as this. Baldwin, in unpleasant mode, is effortlessly insinuating. Grodin, 82 here, is tack-sharp convincing as someone whose sharpness is dulled. For some viewers, their work almost salvages the movie (I’ll watch Sienna Miller in anything), but the general consensus put thumbs down. You may stick with it purely as a curious acting exercise, yet for most the deal breaker is Toback. It’s hard to stomach him, knowing that since 2017 he’s been accused of sexual assault and harassment by no less than three hundred ninety-five women.
With Colleen Camp, John Buffalo Mailer, and for some reason, multi-billionaire Carl Icahn, playing himself. His scene has so little to do with the rest that it seems added as just an insider affectation from the director—“I schmooze with Carl”.