#15 - The Perfect Host
SUMMARY (Spoilers Below)
A young man who has just robbed a bank, named John Taylor, is trying to find a place to hide and finds himself taking refuge in the home of a seemingly weak-willed man named Warwick Wilson who is about to have a dinner party. He first pretends to be a friend of a friend, but then when he hears information about himself on the radio, he takes Warwick hostage. However, the hostage situation does not last long as the tables are suddenly turned and the criminal becomes the hostage…as well as the dinner guest. As the evening progresses, we learn about the reason why John robbed the bank and we also learn about the other guests that Warwick has entertained, with all of their evenings ending the same way: no longer breathing.
How much do I love this? Let me count the ways. Number one, David Hyde Pierce. This actor is wonderful and I can’t help but see an unbalanced version of Niles (from his character of Niles Crane in the show Frasier) in his role as Warwick Wilson. The second reason why I love this movie is because of the innumerable layers that exist in the text and subtext of the film.
In the very beginning, we encounter John Taylor, a bank robber, who is on the run and when he fails with his cover story with one person, he then goes next door and succeeds with his story with a seemingly normal man (Warwick) who is about to have a dinner party, and then tries to act as normal as possible, which he succeeds in doing for quite a long time…until the APB for him is put out on the radio and his host unwittingly hears it and ends up becoming a hostage. I love this whole long set up at the beginning of the movie, completely convincing you that Warwick is truly an innocent man who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time…but then, the tables are turned in an unexpected and wonderful way. Warwick has apparently been drugging the wine that John has been drinking and takes advantage of John and ties him to a chair.
This set of scenes is wonderful and absolutely powerful due to the amazing talent of David Hyde Pierce! He transitions between being completely helpless to completely in control so smoothly, so flawlessly, that I found myself rooting for him, even after I discover that he is a murderer.
He is a fascinating character and becomes even more fascinating in the next scenes, when you see him sitting at the table having his dinner party. That is the scene where you find out not everything is as it seems…
From Warwick’s perspective (shot from John's end of the table), we see four dinner guests arrive, but from John’s perspective (shot from Warwick's end of the table), we realize that there aren’t any dinner guests and that the man entertaining him and holding him hostage is mentally unbalanced. This was the scene that blew me away with its’ genius! In the movie trailer, it’s not even hinted at, which is very good editing on the editors’ part.
I can’t help but be amazed by how much David manages to convince me that he is truly off of his rocker, while still being control the entire time. He’s crazy, but still completely in control.
This is a fine line that Pierce portrays in the character of Warwick throughout the movie and it really blows me away. He manages to tread that line between insanity and sanity through the whole movie, and then you find out why he doesn't just give in: he's the chief of police and is the one who's supposed to catch John. You see him battling with his invisible dinner guests throughout the movie and quickly understand that he's battling with his subconscious desire of having complete control and also giving into his bloodlust at the same time.
There's a great scene where they're playing chess, and Warwick is completely confident that he's going to win...and then John declares checkmate. Suddenly, the diabolically evil and confident Warwick is diminished back to the unsure man that we first met and the difference is staggering. The extremes in his character are brilliant and so well played and I think that David Hyde Pierce deserved an award for his performance!
I love this movie for more reasons, but the most wonderful part of this whole movie is the play by play between John and Warwick. The biggest reason why I love this movie is the fact that both of the bad guys get away with it, which makes me happy. I know that seems a bit odd, but I love it when the smart people actually win. I like it when the smartest ones win, and they do in this movie. The best part of everything in this movie is that there is one resounding theme: Control is all about perspective. The illusion of control can easily be pulled over someone’s eyes if you know their weaknesses. Control is always an illusion and is very hard to maintain.
I give this movie five out of five stars!!