The 2005 film, The Perfect Stranger, opens with Nikki Cominsky (Pamela Brumley) feeling very stressed and underappreciated.
She’s an attorney and she really should be heading off for work but first, she has to make her daughter’s school lunch. (Her daughter is not extremely appreciative.) Meanwhile, her husband has just informed her that he’s canceling their date night because he has to go to a baseball game with a client! Nikki was so looking forward to going to a nice restaurant. Finally, to top all off, the neighbors are religious and they keep inviting Nikki to church. Argggh! The frustration!
Nikki gets to work and the aggravation continues. Her administrative assistant calls her “Mrs. Cominskey,” making Nikki feel old. (“Mrs. Cominskey is my mother-in-law!” Nikki snaps.) Plus, there’s a weird note on Nikki’s desk. The note is inviting her to dinner and it is signed Jesus. At first, Nikki is convinced that her neighbors somehow broke into the office and left the note on her desk. But then she realizes how weird that sounds. Instead, she decides that the note is from her husband. Obviously, he canceled his plans and they’re going to go out to dinner. Yay! But why would her husband sign the letter as Jesus? “He must be joking,” Nikki says, with a laugh. Okay, then. Everyone has their own sense of humor.
Nikki heads to the restaurant straight after work and discovers …. that her husband is not there. Her husband went to the baseball game. Her husband was not playing a joke on her. He really is the type of insensitive idiot who would break a date with his wife and go to a baseball game with client. (You deserve better, Nikki!) However, her neighbors aren’t there either. Instead, there’s a blonde man (Jefferson Moore) wearing a suit who says that his name is Jesus and he wants to have a conversation with her. Nikki’s first instinct is to leave but Jesus offers to pay for dinner. That changes Nikki’s mind and I guess that’s understandable. A free dinner is a free dinner!
Nikki and Jesus go on to have the most awkward dinner date ever. Nikki wants to talk about how annoyed she is with her life. Jesus wants to talk about Heaven. Nikki complains about religion. Jesus tells her that her problem is not with religion but with religious people. Nikki says that she feels like she could get just as much out of being a Hindu or Muslim as she could out of being a Christian. Jesus laughs at her. There’s one long stretch of time when we just see Jesus and Nikki talking but we don’t actually hear what they’re saying. Maybe they’re discussing the food, which does look pretty good.
The Perfect Stranger is an example of a popular sort of faith-based film, one in which Jesus has dinner or coffeewith an unbeliever and basically spends an hour telling them that they’re stupid. Jesus always has the advantage in these films, largely because the screenwriter is on his side and the non-believers are usually limited to repeating a bunch of clichés about all the bad things in the world. That’s certainly the case with The Perfect Stranger, in which Nikki is not only an agnostic but also a bit of a flake. One gets the feeling that many of these films was made less to reach nonbelievers and more to give believers a chance to laugh at the other side. Then again, consider how negatively most people of faith are portrayed in mainstream films, one could argue that the faith-based film industry is basically looking at Hollywood and yelling, “I learned it from watching you!”
Anyway, the important thing is that Nikki felt better about her life and she got a free dinner. Good for Nikki.