‘The Perfect Crime’: Mónica Cervera tour de force in pitch-black Alex de la Iglesia comedy
In Alex de la Iglesia’s daringly subversive, pitch-black comedy The Perfect Crime / Crimen ferpecto, the suave, go-getting 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 sensuous Rafael, but now a magical transformation takes place.
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, 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. Desperate, Rafael starts planning the perfect way to rid himself of his overbearing accomplice.
Mónica Cervera: ‘The Perfect Crime’ show-stopper
While speaking to the audience at the AFI FEST screening of The Perfect Crime, Alex 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, twisted heroine – a character that wouldn’t remind anyone of Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield or Angelina Jolie. But no matter.
As the mousy, homely, deceptively insecure salesgirl 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.
Subversive madcap comedy
As a plus, de la Iglesia and Guerricaechevarría come up with a few outrageously 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 sociopathic – 8-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 – courageously subversive – madcap comedy.
‘The Perfect Crime’ less perfect without Mónica Cervera
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 Mónica Cervera is not around.
Without that one key performance, Alex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría’s gritty, brave satire on our perverted social and personal values is unable to sustain its comedic level.
Note: The original Spanish title of The Perfect Crime is (mis)spelled Crimen ferpecto (“Ferpect Crime”) so as to match an important plot development. The title also works as an homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Crimen Perfecto, better known as Dial M for Murder (1954), in which husband Ray Milland attempts to frame wife Grace Kelly for murder.
The Perfect Crime / Crimen ferpecto (2004)
Dir.: Alex de la Iglesia.
Scr.: Alex de la Iglesia and 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.
The Perfect Crime initially reviewed at the AFI FEST.
The Perfect Crime cast info via the IMDb.
Guillermo Toledo and Mónica Cervera The Perfect Crime images: Vitagraph Films.
“The Perfect Crime: Dazzling Mónica Cervera in Defiantly ‘Offensive’ Pitch-Black Comedy” last updated in May 2019.