Being a big fan of Hitchcock's DIAL M FOR MURDER, I was a bit dismayed when I heard they were remaking it. The original is a wonderful, suspense-filled murder mystery that needs no updating. Paltrow has the role of the naive, cheating wife and she does an OK job as the woman everyone wants dead. At least she's not forced to be as clueless a woman as Grace Kelly portrayed in the original (though Kelly was far more luminous and sympathetic), but she's not as smart as I'd hoped she'd be either. Emily has a career at the U.N., as an aid to an ambassasor, speaks several languages and has a trust fund to die for. She truly believes that she's in love with David (Mortensen) and has the strength of character to even feel quite guilty about having an affair. It still didn't make her sympathetic enough for me to really care what happened to her. She does finally figure it all out in the end, and takes matters into her own hands, but for a woman who's husband all but tells her she's about to die, she doesn't catch on very quickly. When the man you're living with says to you, "You never know you could be dead tomorrow," or something to that effect, go home, pack your bags and disappear because, baby, you won't be waking up in the morning if you stay.
All we ever find out about the marriage is that Steven doesn't understand her, doesn't even want to know who she really is. A good reason to find someone else, but don't you think that would have been fairly apparent when you were dating him? We never find out what made Emily marry him in the first place. If she wasn't richer than him, we could assume that's why she would marry someone old enough to be her father (even if he is as handsome as Douglas). This is a major hole in the plot. By telling us why she fell in love with Steven, we are able to sympathize with her more when it doesn't work out. Otherwise, she's just a misunderstood little girl married to a boring older man. Douglas and Mortensen do fine jobs as the men who want to cash in on her death. Douglas plays his typical rich, asshole. He's played this role so many times he could have called in his performance...and in a way, he does. There's not a moment in this film where you feel bad for him. At least in the original, you knew that the husband was a man who loved his wife very much and just couldn't stand the fact that she was cheating on him. Sure she had money, but he just wanted her to feel as much pain as he did. This time it's all about the cash. Sure, it galls Steven's ego a bit to have her sleeping with David everyday of the week, but he's too into his own ambitions for that to hurt him all that much.
Mortensen is believable as the lover gone bad, but it's not really all that much of a role. The way Steven gets him to agree to the murder isn't all that unique, but it shows the writers were at least trying to be clever. The filmmakers continue pulling off little surprises along the way while still sticking to the original, murder-section of the plot. Emily has a much more active role in uncovering the deception, but she's still left at the mercy of the men in her life. Even though the men get their due, the ending left me unsatisfied. Maybe if Emily had been worth all the fuss... If you're looking for a somewhat clever suspense thriller, A PERFECT MURDER is a film worth your time. Though if you want to watch something truly special, rent the original. There's nothing like an evening of Hitchcock to start the paranoia flowing.