The so-called “perfect life” in the suburbs can literally be a killer, as indubitably proved by Laura Smiles. Laura (Petra Wright) leads a cushioned life, courtesy of her husband Mark (Mark Devlin), who provides well for her and their little boy. But she is haunted by memories of her previous life as an aspiring actress in Manhattan and of her lover Chris (Kip Pardue), a writer tragically killed by a passing van. She sees a shrink, but her behavior becomes more and more erratic, as she has an affair with a family friend, Paul (Jonathan Silverman), and then proves too bizarre for him as well.
Writer-director Mark Ruscio’s film gains in interest with Laura’s progression into unseemliness, ranging from Tourette’s-like venom-spouting around her haplessly confused husband to a series of sex hookups with a variety of very random neighborhood men. Laura’s boredom is palpable, in her enervated boudoir interactions with Mark, which include a very amusing failed blowjob, and in her slightly indifferent, been-there-done-that attitude toward her son, who, although adorable in the requisite movie way, is after all just a child. This may all strike a chord among certain soccer moms in the audience, and Laura’s subversiveness is certainly entertaining to watch. There’s a scene with Paul in which she tries to inveigle him into a three-way that’s almost a classic of sexual comedy. But then Ruscio chooses to weigh his film down in its last quarter with a lengthy flashback about her relationship with Chris that, despite the actors’ considerable charm, feels trifling. And when Ruscio returns us to the “present day,” things become so wacky and is-it-real-or-just-in-Laura’s-mind that he loses us, and the film unfortunately ends as just another misguided indie, artily straining for substance.
There’s no denying Wright’s talent, however. She may look like the blandest and blondest of WASPs, but here, as in XX/XY, that creamy exterior hides a ferocious intelligence and some pretty volcanic stuff, and Wright’s delivery, both comic and emotional, is expert and beautifully economical. She etches a full-scale portrait here, hilarious and horrifying, and amazingly empathic. Derwin and Silverman are both very strong as the solidly attractive yet strangely extraneous men in Laura’s life, and Pardue retains the breezy, androgynous charm he has evinced in a number of films.