From the "You'd Think They'd Have Something Better to Do" File

March 22, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

This past Tuesday came and went with barely a whimper. But do you know what day it was? Not the Ides of March - that was last week. Not St. Patrick's Day - that was Saturday. And not the First Full Day of Spring - that was yesterday (although, to be fair, the Vernal Equinox did occur Tuesday). No, Tuesday was "Perfect Stranger Day." Don't believe me? Here's an excerpt from the press release: "Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, Sharon Pinkinson, will officially proclaim Tuesday, March 20th Perfect Stranger Day in Philadelphia, by order of Mayor John Street with presentation of proclamations to Halle [Berry] and Giovanni [Ribisi]." Okay, so maybe that's only in Philadelphia, but still...

I have seen Perfect Stranger and I can assure anyone reading this that it does not deserve its own day. In fact, it doesn't even deserve its own two hours. I'll let my review speak for itself but suffice it to say that this will not go down as one of the great thrillers of the 21st century. For the purposes of this commentary, however, the quality of the movie is irrelevant. This is less about the movie than the silliness that surrounds it in a celebrity-obsessed culture.

Philadelphia is the United States' sixth largest city, behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. Over the past year, it has gotten two black eyes - one as a result of a rampant spree of murders (averaging more than one per day) and one as a result of runaway student-on-teacher violence in the schools. One would think that Mayor Street might have more pressing matters than proclaiming March 20 as "Perfect Stranger Day." What a load of rubbish. But that's what politicians of both parties do - in order to avoid making hard decisions that might upset constituents, they get behind fluff legislation and vague initiatives. And the killing and violence go on. But at least we have Perfect Stranger Day.

Some might argue that since I don't live in Philadelphia and don't pay taxes to the city, I don't have a right to complain. To a certain extent, that is true (I have plenty of things to complain about regarding the taxes I do pay, but that's another rant). However, I was domiciled in Philadelphia for five years (1985-90) and visit there an average of three times per week, dutifully paying my $8 parking fee on each occasion. It's clear that I have an affection for the city and I would prefer not to become a statistic of the current crime wave. That at least gives me a vested interest in what the mayor's plans are.

Besides, it's just embarrassing. At how many stops on Giovanni Ribisi and Halle Berry's publicity tour is there such slavish bowing and scraping? You'd think no celebrity ever came to Philadelphia. "Look! It's an A-List Star and her B-List sidekick! Let's roll out the red carpet, lick their boots, and thank them profusely for deigning to spend a few hours in our humble town!" Was it the lure of Perfect Stranger Day that brought them here? No - they would have arrived and done exactly the same number of interviews and smiled for the same number of paparazzi pictures without the proclamation. It makes the city's film office, which pushed the mayor to make the proclamation, seem bush league and whorish. One wonders what would have happened had the third star of the film, Bruce Willis, been on hand. Maybe a parade down Broad Street?

So how did I spend Perfect Stranger Day? By writing my review of Perfect Stranger - and it probably didn't capture the spirit of the occasion striven for by the clowns who decided to tarnish Tuesday's reputation. Now I'll just sit back and await "ReelViews Day."