One Perfect Day (2004)

2004 was a big year in movieland. Frodo finally made it to Mount Doom, Harry Potter met with a prisoner of Azkaban, Mel Gibson’s biblical spectacle, The Passion of the Christ, led to protests and picketing, and, in Australia, Somersault had audiences and critics in a spin with a record 13 wins at the AFI Awards.
But one Australian film appeared and as quickly disappeared from the screen with minimal fanfare. That film was One Perfect Day.


What’s it all about then?
Written and directed by Paul Currie, this modern-day rendition of Orpheus’s journey to the underworld is played out against the pulsating beats of Melbourne’s dance music scene. Renegade opera student Tommy (Dan Spielman) is called home from London when his sister, Emma (Abbie Cornish in an early role), dies from a drug overdose. Tommy’s reunion with girlfriend Alysse (Leanna Walsman) sours when he discovers she was with his sister the night she died and Alysse’s new friend Trig (an inspired Nathan Philips) may be the cause of his sister’s demise. Guilt-stricken, Alysse immerses herself in the dance scene, falling in with record producer/drug lord Hector, while Tommy explores the dance music that so captivated his sister.
Currie does well to capture the heart-pounding energy of dance clubs with a style not unlike Gregor Jordan – dreamy surrealism punctuated by bursts of gritty reality. The visual representation of Tommy’s musical ear is beautifully realised, but the soundtrack steals the show. Featuring mixes by some of Australia’s best loved DJs, including original work by Josh Abrahams, it completely encapsulates the essence of the film.

So, what happened?
Why did Somersault rock the screen but One Perfect Day not cause a tremor?
Simply put, there just wasn’t the room for it. 2004 was an epic year of spectacle film. To capture the movie-going audience, a small budget indie would have to be something spectacular, like Somersault.
And frankly, while One Perfect Day explores the same ground - drug use, infidelity, and manipulation - it doesn’t compare. Somersault is a subtle seduction of the senses, whereas One Perfect Day swings wildly between the dizzy cool of the dance and drug culture, and the inherent tragedy of its players. Its structure pays too much mind to its operatic introduction and as a result, is weighed down by high drama. Currie is highly ambitious in the film’s scope and delivery and seems to lose grasp of the gritty realism he initially aims for, especially in the climax (an opera-inspired mix of melody and heartbreak).

The verdict?
All that aside, One Perfect Day does work. It achieves the ‘moving-artist-journey’ far more successfully than the likes of Step Up or Honey, and explores the pulsing life of the dance scene with a more balanced (but still uneven) eye than Go! or Groove. It doesn’t hit the cinematic heights of Trainspotting or the emotional intensity of Somersault, but then, what could?

While it wallows in the doldrums of loneliness and despair at times, One Perfect Day is still a feel-good-celebrate movie with some truly uplifting moments. It invites empathy, not condemnation, for its ragtag characters – from moody Tommy, to ratbag ‘distribution specialist’ Trig; vulnerable Emma, to doofus Noah. Even slimeball Hector finds reprieve in one of the most amusing scenes of the film. Currie strives to blend emotion and humour, audio and visual, to create an entertaining and moving tale of self-discovery, morality, and love – and for the most part, he succeeds.
Overall, it’s visually stimulating, and aurally intoxicating; it’s funny and tragic; and it’s a genuine Aussie story. A visual and auditory feast.

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