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A PERFECT COUPLE (director/writer: Robert Altman; screenwriter: Allan Nicholls; cinematographer: Edmond L. Koons; editor: Tony Lombardo; cast: Paul Dooley (Alex Theodopoulos), Marta Heflin (Sheila Shea), Titos Vandis (Panos), Belita Moreno (Eleousa), Henry Gibson (Fred Bott), Dimitra Arliss (Athena), Allan Nicholls (Dana 115), Ann Ryerson (Skye 147), Poppy Lagos (Melpomeni Bott), Dennis Franz (Costa), Ted Neeley (Himself); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Robert Altman; 20th Century Fox; 1979)
“It’s one of those uneven pics that is neither good nor bad, but has its own unique charms.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A Perfect Couple is a not so perfect film, but good enough to be serviceable entertainment. The offbeat romcom is partly likable and partly detestable, as it ebb and flows with characters right out of Chayefsky’s “Marty.” It’s one of Robert Altman’s (“Nashville”/”Short Cuts”/”The Player”) more innocuous films, but far from his worst. Altman cowrites it with the actor Allan Nicholls (playing one of the video daters).

Through viewing videocassettes at an LA video-dating service lonely socially awkward Greek-American Alex Theodopoulos (Paul Dooley) dates lonely heart Sheila Shea (Marta Heflin) and takes her to a concert of the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Alex is middle-aged, straight-laced, wealthy, and lives at home with his repressive extended Greek family and overbearing father (Titos Vandis) in a hilltop castle, while Sheila is a diminutive, aimless, impoverished, quiet, community backup pop singer who lives in a commune (at a glove factory loft) with band leader control-freak Ted Neeley (starred in Jesus Christ Superstar) and his boisterous rock group called “Keepin’ ‘Em Off the Streets” in a counter-culture setting.

The two will go through an on-again, off-again screwball 1930’s cinema type relationship complicated by both party’s diverse living arrangements and different attitudes, and will go through a few awful dates, the fellow getting clobbered over the head by her with a fireplace poker, and conflicts over culture clashes (i.e., classical music versus pop music) to find out in the end, much to the audiences’ relief, that they are indeed a love match and can overcome their obstacles.

The opposites attract love story has enough of Altman’s idiosyncratic deft touches to keep it likable, as the two ordinary sympathetic figures ride through the highs and lows of dating to find romance. It’s one of those uneven pics that is neither good nor bad, but has its own unique charms.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”