Charlotte (Allison Williams) is a talented cello player who, when she was 14 years old, left Anton’s academy for musical prodigies in order to look after her sick mother. Now, she’s going to Singapore to meet new cello star Elizabeth (Logan Browning). The two girls meet, seemingly fall in love with each other and decide to go on a two-week-long vacation in China: on the first day, Elizabeth gets very sick and from this point on the movie takes a very, very dark turn.
This is the synopsis of The Perfection, a new Netflix original horror film that will likely surprise and shock you at every turn. The Perfection is written and directed by Richard Shepard, a filmmaker mostly specialised in TV shows and silly comedies (The Matador, 2005, was quite great though!). In fact, going into this movie my main concern was that the trailer would make the film out to be something more exciting than it actually was: in other words, given the filmmakers involved, I was afraid The Perfection would be a bit of a let-down.
Upon watching the movie (twice now), most of my concerns have been thrown out of the window. I really loved The Perfection and, most importantly, I think this is a great horror film that nails some key aspects in the making of a memorable scary movie.
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My review is also available on IMDb – The Perfection (2019)
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Firstly, the story. The Perfection is based on a great concept that’s fully brought to life by a solid, unpredictable script. I would say that everything that happens in the first two acts caught me off guard, making the viewing experience very satisfying and intriguing. Also, this is a very fast-paced movie that doesn’t allow distraction or boredom at all: every other scene is exciting and important for the development of the plot.
What does a great story need to stand out in a motion picture, though? Exactly, great visuals! The Perfection is one of the best-looking films so far this year and, more important, it’s extremely creative with its cinematography and camera-work. The Perfection displays a lot of beautiful steady shots that rely on symmetry and fantastic colours, enhancing the artistic vibe the story is trying to achieve. The kino cinematography is filled with purposeful out-of-focus shots that show the main character of a specific scene from unique angles and blur out everything else around them, providing a very uncomfortable vibe even when nothing happens.
The protagonists of this story are also extremely interesting and likeable (or unlikeable, depending on what they’re supposed to be), let alone the acting, which is just top-notch: back in 2017, in my Get Out review, I praised Allison Williams performance as one of the very best in the whole picture. In The Perfection she does an even better job as the main character (Charlotte), being able to emote so much even when the movie asks her to be restraint. Steven Weber as Anton is also great in the movie. I was afraid of Logan Browining’s performance as Elizabeth the first time I saw her on screen: I thought she might be there just because she looks gorgeous and Charlotte needed a love interest. You know what they say, though: never judge a book from its cover!
In fact, Browining is simply mesmerising in the film, providing one of the best performances of the year. Depending on what’s required from her, she’s badass, sweet and innocent, terrified and loud, naïve and naggy. I truly hope this role lends her more leading roles in great movies in the future!
Yet, I thought half of the score in The Perfection was just fantastic: the theme classical song is amazing to listen to and used in a very fitting way, as well as the rest of the classical score. Unfortunately, the movie intertwines them with some very uninspired hip-hop tracks that feel very distracting and out-of-place.
Despite the spotless visual storytelling, The Perfection relies a bit too heavily on exposition scenes. Even in this regard, though, the way this exposition dump is delivered is quite original, which makes it more acceptable and less distracting.
Another issue I have with this picture is that it can come across as tonally inconsistent due to the different locations it takes place in. In fact, the movie is divided in four parts (marked by title cards), and each one of them is characterised by different tone and vibe. This is something that didn’t bother me, but it’s worth noting because I believe it makes the movie more episodic, whereas it would have been better to have a more coherent and linear storyline.
The execution of this picture, in combination with interesting story and compelling characters, makes every intense scene even more hardcore and disturbing. In fact, The Perfection doesn’t shy away from hard-hitting scenes that, for a mainstream audience, are probably not very easy to sit through, as they involved gory violence and some taboo subjects.
The Perfection succeeds in building up a story and a world that will most likely please most horror fans, whether they’re only used to mainstream movies or underground filmmaking. It’s a film I have no trouble recommending and, as I said before, I personally really loved it. however, I have two major complaints – besides tone, score and exposition, which I already talked about. Since they involve spoilers, I’ll assess them after I’ve given my final grade: please, check out my spoiler-filled paragraphs only if you’ve already seen the movie!
The Perfection 7.5/10
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BRIEF SPOILER DISCUSSION about the ending of The Perfection
1) One of the big reveals of The Perfection is that Anton’s cello academy is a very fucked up place. He’s some sort of paedophile who, whenever one of the students doesn’t achieve “the perfection”, rapes them for his own twisted pleasure. At different times, both Charlotte and Elizabeth had been victims of Anton, which is why they’re now plotting revenge against him. Assuming that Anton has sexually abused many of his underage students, I’m wondering: why the hell nobody ever called the police? Why would Charlotte and Elizabeth prefer to risk their life to get back at him instead of testifying in front of the cops? Don’t get me wrong, I loved how the story unfolded, but I feel like the movie should at least mention that somebody tried to act legally against Anton and his academy. This would also have given the opportunity to assess a social issue: if a rich, beloved person in the community is accused of something so vile, the police prefers to close an eye on him. To me this “plot hole” shows a lack of realism in an otherwise very grounded story.
2) Due to the big twist I just mentioned, it’s revealed that Charlotte drugged and forced Elizabeth to cut her own hand in the first part of the movie not as a form of revenge, but as an attempt to save her from Anton. This is explained in a rewind/flashback scene that depicts Charlotte as a psycho: in fact, she constantly has a smug on her face, she looks satisfied by what she’s doing, as to imply she enjoyed torturing Elizabeth. But, at the end, we learn that’s not true at all! This was clearly done only to confuse the audience and let them to believe that Charlotte was, in fact, the villain. It’s a cheap trick that, in retrospect, can’t be justified in any way – as we learn that all Charlotte wanted was to help Elizabeth, regardless of the extreme measures. Showing Charlotte being conflicted about what she was about to do to Elizabeth would have added an extra layer of mystery and believability to the story, let alone being an even more clever way for the to movie to get to the final big reveal.
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