First announced in 2017 and premiering at Fantastic Fest in 2018, The Perfection is now available to stream on Netflix. Over the last several years, the company has become renowned for releasing content geared towards all types of demographics, with this film being geared towards the horror/thriller crowd. It's certainly one of the more unusual Netflix original films to hit the scene recently - in ways both good and bad. The Perfection has fun telling its twisty story, which is bolstered by the compelling performances of both Allison Williams and Logan Browning.
If The Perfection took a more straightforward approach to its narrative, it probably wouldn't be as fascinating a viewing experience. One of its strongest attributes is director and co-writer Richard Shepard's decision to peel back layers as he goes long, intentionally misleading the audience until the next twist hits. Admittedly, by the time The Perfection reaches its conclusion, it doesn't have anything all that interesting or new to say about the timely subject material it looks to tackle, but the journey it takes to get there keeps viewers on their toes as they try to guess what's next. Without getting into spoilers, the plot does delve into the over-the-top and ridiculous, but within the context of this film, it works for the most part.
Portraying talented cellists Charlotte and Lizzie (who were, at various points in their lives, the favorite student of Steven Weber's Anton, a teacher at a premier music school in Boston), Williams and Browning carry most of The Perfection on their shoulders. Their performances have a certain level of intrigue to them, since they have to do their part to sell viewers on certain plot developments and help Shepard preserve his surprises. Both actresses are up to task, tackling anything thrown their way, including body horror, romance, thriller, and everything in between. The layers Williams and Browning inject into their characters are appreciated, as they help elevate the final product with committed turns.
Unfortunately, the rest of the ensemble doesn't fare as well. The most prominent secondary role is that of Weber's Anton, another piece of this puzzle that has more going on than apparent at first blush. His performance may not be as engrossing as either of the two leads, but that's more a product of the script than anything else. Weber is definitely effective in his scenes, and the character serves his purpose in the narrative well. Others in the cast, like Alaina Huffman as Anton's wife Paloma, frankly do not have much to do and leave a minimal impression over the course of the film's runtime. Because of the nature of the story, this isn't the biggest detriment against The Perfection, but some may still be left wanting a little more from those outside of Williams and Browning. This never needed to be a huge ensemble piece, though certain characters are merely plot devices.
Another issue with The Perfection is that it takes a long time before the narrative and character motivations come into focus, hamstringing the first act as it meanders along. This is obviously a byproduct of Shepard not wanting to reveal too much at once and keep up the suspense, but his handling is almost vague to a fault. Once the main plot kicks in, The Perfection transforms into a wild ride, but some viewers may have difficulty getting invested early on. More positively, Shepard largely abides by the "show don't tell" rule to establish his characters and their situations and employs some neat tricks to make The Perfection interesting visually. Certain choices might come off as a little gimmicky, but they still give the film a bit of a personality.
All in all, The Perfection puts various elements into a blender and ultimately crafts something worth watching out of its unique concoction. This is definitely not a film for everybody, but those with a taste for the twisted and bizarre will likely find something out of it. Pacing problems aside, Shepard delivers something different and even a little unpredictable. Like many Netflix films, the streaming service is the ideal landing spot for something such as this, which certainly would have been lost in the shuffle of the bigger studio blockbusters coming out now. But for those who want to spend a night in and see something unlike anything in theaters currently, give The Perfection a try.
The Perfection is now streaming on Netflix. It runs 90 minutes and is rated TV-MA.
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