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Perfectos Desconocidos (Perfect Strangers), auteur Manolo Caro’s latest film, asks that very question.The Spanish-language comedy tells the story of a group of friends — three couples and a single friend — who get together during a lunar eclipse to enjoy an intimate dinner. When the hostess proposes a game — all guests must lay their cell phones on the dinner table and read aloud their texts and answer all phone calls in front of the entire group — the friendly setting quickly becomes a rollercoaster ride filled with “textual tension,” lies, secrets and betrayals.
ET got the chance to speak with the Mexican director about the making of the film, how it differs from the original Italian version, as well as how he assembled the stellar cast, which includes his Casa de Flores leading lady Cecilia Suárez.
“The Mexican version ends up being more hilarious, more chaotic and more passionate, like we Latinos are,” Caro explained. “We take the film to a place where we feel identified with our follies and our secrets. I believe that the Latinx public will identify with how these characters react to their secrets being revealed.”
Manolo Caro Perfect UnknownsNoc Noc Films courtesy Pantelion FilmsThe original Perfect Strangers, titled Perfetti Sconosciuti, was released in 2016 by Italian director Paolo Genovese, with a slew of international remakes released over the past couple of years.
“Each version has its magic and relates to its own country. That’s what makes this one unique. The script for the Latin American version is well-rounded. It’s an incredible script, it’s intelligent,” Caro expressed. “Each script speaks to the spirit of each country.”
Co-starring Suárez, Manuel García-Rulfo, Mariana Treviño, Miguel Rodarte, Bruno Bichir, Ana Claudia Talancón and Spanish newcomer Franky Martín, the actors were Caro’s dream cast.
“Once they offered me the film, the first thing that I thought about was which actors I’d love to work with,” he shared. “A requirement I wrote down, before accepting the job, was the opportunity to choose my cast. I was fortunate in that all of the actors said yes. The hard part came after when we had to figure out everyone’s schedule, because a lot of them don’t live in Mexico, and get them all together to start filming. It was a marvelous experience. They are very generous, fun actors and we had an incredible time. I was so happy to be able to do this project with them.”
Caro has previously worked on a handful of films with Suarez, including Gente Bien … Jammed , The Immoral Life Of The Ideal Couple and Elvira, I Would Give You My Life But I’m Using It , among others.
“Cecilia is an actress with whom I’ve worked with on many occasions, and right now we’re experiencing a special moment with the success of Casa de Flores,” he shared. “She’s an actress with whom I’ve had a lot of challenges. We have a special connection and understanding. We know each other very well, we share the same outlook on certain topics, including giving visibility to topics that can seem taboo, putting them on the table, and making people start normalizing them. It’s a bit of a mystery how well we understand each other on set.”
As for what he admires most about the actress is “her intelligence and the way she generously gives her entire heart and soul to her characters.”“Also how she takes a lot of risks with me,” Caro said. “She is a woman who listens to me and knows my sense of humor, and knows how to deliver a performance without a lot of guidance.Perfect Unknowns
Noc Noc Films courtesy Pantelion FilmsWhile Caro and Suárez share a special connection, one of the biggest challenges he was confronted during production was shooting everything in such a short amount of time.
“We filmed the movie in three weeks. It was very fast and intense,” he revealed, adding that another challenge was getting the cast to listen to him because “it was always a party with them. They all get along very well and are all close friends, so while filming it would become a constant celebration between them.”
But that great chemistry and friendship are exactly what makes the film shine. Throughout the night, the audience begins to see each character address situations that make them uncomfortable. They also show a vulnerable side of themselves that they’ve never shared with their best friends, and find out things that they never knew about one another.
Perfectos Desconocidos also has a way of showing how cell phone-obsessed people have become, and the things that go on behind locked screens. The film, however, isn’t just a silly story about a group of friends and their secrets, it’s also about “acceptance, honesty, communication and respect,” stressed Caro.
“It’s about the communication — or lack of — that we have with our friends, our family and partner,” he said. “It’s also a movie about how great technology can be, but also how destructive it is. It shows how harmful it is to live a double life via our phones and what happens when the truth comes out.”
First came the Italian original. Then the Greek version, a few months later. Then the Spanish, the Turkish, and dramatic adaptation at Israel’s national theater. All in all, Perfect Strangers has been remade nine times since 2016 – and many more adaptations are on the way. Paolo Genovese,
who wrote and directed the first Italian movie, Perfetti Sconosciuti , estimates 15 or 16 remakes will come in total. The latest, Manolo Caro’s Mexico-set addition, Perfectos Desconocidos, hits theaters in the United States on January 11.
“Perfect Strangers is a world phenomenon and I wanted to be part of it,” Caro told Refinery29. When Caro first saw the Spanish version in 2017, he knew he was watching something special — something he could work with. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is a script I really love. I can stamp my version, and Latin American feelings, on it.”
How did Perfect Strangers become the cinematic equivalent of the tattered jeans from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – a script that fits practically every country? Think of the script as a template. Each version contains the same ingredients: Seven characters speaking at a Gilmore Girls-level speed, two rooms of a lavishly decorated apartment, and a very dangerous game. Within this rigid form is an opportunity for a director to insert aesthetic creativity and cultural specificity.
The premise is deceptively simple. On the evening of an eclipse, seven old friends gather for a dinner party. In a series of fast-paced introductory scenes, the characters adhere to archetypes. There are the newlyweds who sneak in a quickie before the party. There’s the resentful couple bickering their way through parenthood. There are the hosts, a therapist unable to connect with her husband and daughter. Then, there’s the awkwardly groomed single guy who looks out of place among his friends.
We think we know these people from the first scene, because they think they know each other. Then, the magic of Perfect Strangers begins. Once the friends are gathered around the table, comfortably settled into their roles, the hostess, Eva (played by Cecilia Suárez in the Mexican version), deviously suggests they play a game. Each person will place his or her phone on the table. For the rest of the evening, they will read each incoming message aloud and answer incoming calls on speaker.
Obviously, disaster ensues. As Eva puts it right before the game begins, “These devices have become the black boxes of our lives,” bearing possibly marriage- and friendship-ending consequences. Over the course of the evening, the secrets that everyone at the table are carrying in their back pockets – literally — are unspooled. But none of the major character reveals scattered throughout the dinner (and there are a lot) can compare to the movie’s ultimate haunting twist.
Perfect Strangers speaks to our compartmentalized lives, one eye on our shared world and the other on our private, digital screens. “The story is very close to us. All people have secrets in the cell phone, so it’s very easy to understand and feel a part of the movie or the situation. You can see yourself in one of the characters,” Caro said.
It’s all fun and games until your ultimate secret is revealed.In a remake of a successful Italian film, the Spanish-language Perfectos Desconocidos or Perfect Strangers explores the dangerous cell phone game at the dinner table. The film has an all-star Mexican cast with Bruno Bichir, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Miguel Rodarte, Cecilia Suarez, Ana Claudia Talancon and Mariana Trevino. The film is directed from one of the most rising Mexican directors Manolo Caro (The House of Flowers).
Here’s the synopsis:When a group of best friends get together during a lunar eclipse to share an intimate dinner in the tasteful house of Eva (Cecilia Suarez) and Antonio (Bruno Bichir), they suspect it’s just another typical night until the hostess proposes a game. All guests must lay their cell phones on the table and read aloud all incoming messages and answer all incoming phone calls in front of the entire group. What begins as a provocative party game quickly becomes a wild ride full of twists and “textual tension” in this electrifying over the top comedy about the secrets we all carry in our pockets.
LRM Online had an exclusive sit-down interview with actors Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Bruno Bichir and director Manolo Caro. We discussed about the remake of the movie and the chemistry of the cast.Perfectos Desconocidos or Perfect Strangers will be playing nationwide in the United States this Friday.
In another scenario, the Italian version of Perfect Strangers could have been subtitled and shipped around the world. That might’ve been enough. Subtitles would have communicated the movie’s unsubtle message about the secret lives in our phones to audiences worldwide. But then Perfect Strangers wouldn’t have become the global phenomenon it is. By adapting the movie’s structure to the contours of a particular country and culture, Perfect Strangers gives an individual twist to a universally applicable modern-day premise.
And it works. While watching the Greek version, Teleioi Xenoi, for the first time at a Greek film festival in New York, never once did I suspect I was watching an adaptation. Instead, I immediately assumed it was an original Greek movie, so much did the characters — from their linguistic quirks to their cultural references — remind me of my Greek friends and family in Athens and elsewhere. The same likely goes for Manolo Caro’s Mexican version, which I also recently saw.
While the movie is undeniably enjoyable for an American viewer like me, Mexican audiences will pick up on elements of the group’s dynamics invisible to outsiders.
Remakes of Perfect Strangers will come to Poland, Germany, Egypt, Russia, and Sweden next, but American audiences may have to wait indefinitely for a culturally specific version of our own. In February 2017,
the Weinstein Company purchased the rights to Perfect Strangers. Following Harvey Weinstein’s downfall and the shutdown of the Weinstein Company, the American remake remains in a kind of limbo, but that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine a dream cast. (Refinery29 reached out to Lantern Entertainment, the company that acquired Weinstein Films, about the status of an American adaptation of Perfect Strangers. We’ll update this story if we get a response.
Maybe in one year we can make a festival of all the versions,” Caro suggests. We’ll be in the audience, reading subtitles.