It may be too gentle to leave a deep impression, but its sweetness is also well-earned and nice to savor.
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The Perfect Candidate feels like a film that both represents a new era for women in the Muslim world and also one that will help push that movement forward.
The Perfect Candidate can feel sedate and disjointed as a broad portrait of empowerment, but this is nothing if not a movie of its time, and it sings — sometimes literally — whenever it hones in on the unique struggle through which Saudi Arabian women might seize upon this historic moment.
What The Perfect Candidate lacks in sophistication it makes up for in intuition, entwining the longtime taboos of music (especially the female voice) and women's active participation in political life in a positive storyline.
Beefed up with one too many musical numbers from the protagonist’s dad, The Perfect Candidate feels a bit slight on plot and character. But Zahrani’s performance and the urgency of the issues elevate it from the ordinary. A great last shot compensates for all deficiencies.
At every step, Al Mansour feeds the audience exactly what she thinks will make them feel good about positive change in Saudi Arabia, setting up conflict and resolution with all the nuance of a by-the-numbers construction kit.
The film never entirely transcends its nature as a polemical pamphlet - and despite strong presence in those scenes where Maryam speaks truth to power, Alzahrani doesn’t quite have the charisma to make her substantially more than a representative figure.
The Perfect Candidate is the sort of film I can imagine getting a remake in contemporary America or Britain, with not as many changes as we might assume.
Like Maryam’s approach to local politics, the film is well-meaning but occasionally naive.
The Perfect Candidate is a simple story, told without frills or even much in the way of nuance. But it’s socked through with great power, conviction and an underlying hope for a better world.