- The Perfect Crime (2004) movie review: As an unattractive, nail-bitingly shy Madrid department store salesgirl who, following a deadly twist of fate, reveals herself to be an ambitious, domineering, sexually insatiable Medusa with poor fashion taste, Mónica Cervera is the best thing about Álex de la Iglesia’s otherwise uneven – and boldly subversive – comedy about our perverse social values and mores.
The Perfect Crime review: Mónica Cervera tour de force makes Álex de la Iglesia’s brazenly ‘offensive’ comedy a must-see
In Álex de la Iglesia’s pitch-black comedy The Perfect Crime / Crimen ferpecto, the suave, go-getting, self-assured Rafael (Guillermo Toledo) has two major goals in life: To bed every beautiful woman in sight and to become the clothing department manager at one of Madrid’s top department stores.
Everything seems to be going Rafael’s way until he discovers that his chief rival, Don Antonio (Luis Varela), has been selected as the new Emperor of the Floor.
A heated confrontation between Rafael and his newly appointed boss leads to the latter’s accidental death. In a panic, Rafael instinctively tries to hide the body. He is unaware that someone has overheard the fatal argument.
That someone turns out to be Lourdes (Mónica Cervera), a nail-biting, pathologically shy salesgirl whom Rafael abhors because he finds her ugly. In the past, Lourdes used to become an emotional wreck whenever she crossed paths with the sensual Rafael, but now a magical transformation occurs.
She quickly takes charge of the situation: Don Antonio’s body is gleefully chopped up and disposed of. Next, Rafael finds himself at the receiving end of a blackmail threat. Either he becomes her lover (and later husband), or…
Although Rafael doesn’t have much of a choice, he soon realizes that he can’t cope with Lourdes, for she needs a perpetual sex machine to keep her satisfied. Besides, she follows his every move and has turned the clothing department into her own private fiefdom.
So desperate that he has begun hallucinating, Rafael – like Marcello Mastroianni in Pietro Germi’s Divorce Italian Style – starts planning the perfect way to get rid of his overbearing wife/accomplice.
Show-stopper Mónica Cervera
While speaking to the audience at the AFI FEST screening of The Perfect Crime, Álex de la Iglesia – who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jorge Guerricaechevarría – explained that, as a “freak,” he could relate to the film’s wide-eyed, big-nosed, haughtily twisted heroine – a character that wouldn’t remind anyone of Marilyn Monroe or Angelina Jolie. But no matter.
As the mousy, homely, deceptively insecure department store salesclerk who turns out to be a fiercely determined, sexually insatiable, all-seeing Medusa, Mónica Cervera, in a role written expressly for her, is a unique kind of antiheroine.
Whenever Cervera is on screen, this Spanish-speaking “working woman” – à la Rosalind Russell or Jean Arthur, with the addition of a blood-drawing edge – lifts The Perfect Crime to the realm of classic (black) comedy.
Fearlessly subversive madcap humor
As a plus, de la Iglesia and Guerricaechevarría come up with several un-PC segments that would have done fellow Spaniard Pedro Almodóvar proud, including an uproarious family dinner conversation centered on Lourdes’ mother (Gracia Olayo) and sister (Alicia Andújar).
The latter is a precocious – and psychopathic – eight-year-old who, much to Mom’s annoyance, claims she can’t eat because she became pregnant after being raped by her gym teacher, who also gave her AIDS.
“If you send me to reform school,” the little girl warns Mom, “I’ll leave the gas switch on and we’ll all be blown to pieces.”
It’s anything but. Flawlessly acted, directed, and edited (Alejandro Lázaro), the family dinner sequence is a brilliant, rolling-in-the-aisles exemplar of – fearlessly subversive – madcap comedy.
The Perfect Crime less perfect without its leading lady
Unfortunately, despite its many positive elements – the sort of stuff that would horrify and/or disgust the easily offended and the politically correct everywhere – and leading man Guillermo Toledo’s best efforts, the 105-minute The Perfect Crime suffers whenever its black-as-peat heart, Mónica Cervera, isn’t around.
Without that one key performance, Álex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría’s gritty, brave satire on our perverted social and personal values is unable to sustain its comedic level.
The Perfect Crime / Crimen ferpecto (2004)
Director: Álex de la Iglesia.
Screenplay: Álex de la Iglesia & Jorge Guerricaechevarría.
Cast: Guillermo Toledo. Mónica Cervera. Luis Varela. Enrique Villén. Fernando Tejero. Javier Gutiérrez. Kira Miró. Gracia Olayo. Alicia Andújar. Penélope Velasco. José Alias. Montse Mostaza.
Cinematography: José L. Moreno. Film Editing: Alejandro Lázaro. Music: Roque Baños. Production Design: José Luis Arrizabalaga & Biaffra (as Arturo García ‘Biaffra’). Producers: Álex de la Iglesia, Roberto Di Girolamo, and Gustavo Ferrada.
“The Perfect Crime: Sensational Mónica Cervera” notes
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The Perfect Crime reviewed at the AFI FEST.
The Perfect Crime cast and crew info via the IMDb.
Guillermo Toledo and Mónica Cervera The Perfect Crime images: Vitagraph Films.
“The Perfect Crime: Sensational Mónica Cervera in Defiantly ‘Offensive’ Pitch-Black Comedy” last updated in December 2020.