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‘Perfume’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 05, 1991

Just in case you were wondering what that smell is, it's Roland S. Jefferson's "Perfume." The picture, which looks as if it were shot by the Home Shopping Network's cameraman on his days off, deals with the establishment of a cosmetics company by a group of five longtime friends who call themselves "The Groovy Girls." The business is formed one night over dinner. "All I need from each of you is $25,000," one of the group says. "The rest we can get from the bank." Nobody even blinks.

The reason nobody flinches is that not a single member of this clique drives a car with a price tag under $100,000. Shoot, they spend 25K a year on their nails alone. The toast that night is "May there be no secrets between us," and that sets the agenda for the duration. Slowly (and I mean slowly), it's revealed that each of the women has an awful secret that she has hidden from the rest. How awful? When one of the women is asked to explain her problem, she says, "Did you see the movie 'Chinatown' ?"

Nuff said.

With all the classic cars and flashing jewelry, what you expect "Perfume" to turn into is a morality play about the emptiness of wealth, but it never does. Jefferson's point, it seems, is that black people can have lots of money but that their problems have nothing to do with cash flow. So then why make them all so conspicuously wealthy to begin with? It doesn't help, either, that Jefferson's direction is torturously amateurish.

A final note: The names of the actors have been withheld pending notification of next of kin.

"Perfume" is rated R for sexuality and rough language.

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