Spoilers were thrown for a loop.
I gotta give props to the filmmakers. This movie managed to surprise me with every twist and turn. I’m not saying it’s not flawed and I definitely think it’s not for every audience out there. However, I have to admire the subversion used to throw off the viewer off track. Now here’s the hard part, how to review it without giving it away. Let’s see how we play this tune.
The Perfection (2018) is directed by Richard Shepard who wrote it with Nicole Snyder and Eric Carmelo. Charlotte (Allison Williams) was a natural and gifted cello player once. She had to leave her career behind to care for her ailing mother. Lizzie (Logan Browning) has become a star and has a successful career as a professional cello player. Charlotte was the star of Bachoff Academy, the prestigious music school run by Anton (Steven Weber) and Paloma (Alaina Huffman). Now it is Lizzie’s time to shine.
Charlotte’s mother has passed and she pays a visit to the Bachoffs in Shanghai, were they are picking young talent to join their academy. There she also meets Lizzie and they hit it off almost immediately. Lizzie even invites Charlotte to join her as she’s taking some time off and traveling to the Chinese countryside, away from the first class hotels and fanfare. After partying the night away, they are ready to rough it up starting with a rickety bus ride. Lizzie however is not feeling well. Charlotte offers ibuprofen pills to dull the pain, but it’s not helping. Things are about to get very wrong.
We’re not going to go exactly where the movie goes, but let’s just say we’re in for a very hard and shocking twist. This will be the first and most effective that will subvert the experience enough to make us doubt what we’re seeing, and what happens next. This ability to keep us guessing is where the movie’s strength and weakness lies. We’re not expecting the turn of events, and I must say the first one is really effective. However, just as I expected the story to continue to shock us with violence and vengeance, it produces another twist by aligning two characters along the same path. That just didn’t seem plausible, and I think the character of Lizzie is betrayed out of her own agency along the way. Unavoidably the impact of the next reveals are diminished.
That being said, I can’t take away the filmmaker’s commitment to a rather unusually extreme horror angle that you don’t see coming. It’s got very problematic elements that audiences will find triggering if not shocking, to the point that I have to add some WTF categorization here. This is definitely for mature audiences only willing to experiment some shock cinema and sensible or casual viewers should abstain here. The outcome ends with a sinister and dark resolution meant to produce a cathartic sense of poetic justice but not without issues. I will highlight the acting prowess of Logan Browning as Lizzie, which I think is one the highlights here.
Recommended with reservations. The first half is a setup for us to know the characters of Charlotte and Lizzie. However, as engaging as they are, the twist turns the entire expectations for both characters on its head. Subversions abound to the point we’re easily misled. At the same time the subsequent twist diminish some of the characters established. This is true specially of Lizzie which deserved her own arc here. For an audience not afraid of shock and darkness, this might be worth a watch.
That will do for now.