Every year at Fantastic Fest, there is one film that flies under the radar and completely takes you by surprise. Richard Shepard‘s (The Matador, Dom Hemingway) The Perfectionis that film this year. Added to the roster just days before the festival began, the film is a demented and uncomfortable tale of obsession and revenge that pulls the rug out from under you at least three times over the course of its 90 minutes before settling on a final image that is as disturbing as it is hilarious. The Perfection is as close to perfect as a film can get and shouldn’t be missed once it secures a distributor (though it is doubtful it will get a wide release, at it is a truly fucked up little film). I wanted to wait a few days to write this review so I could be sure I wasn’t being hyperbolic in my praise for it. Well, it’s been two days and I’m still in love with it, so make of that what you will.
10 years after abandoning her life as a cello prodigy to care for her ailing mother, Charlotte (Allison Williams, Girls, Get Out) seeks out her mentor Anton (Steven Weber) and his new star pupil Lizzie (Logan Browning, Dear White People) in order to witness the life she gave up. Once there, a twisted (and I mean twisted) plan is set in motion that will push all parties involved to their absolute limits.
That is really all you need to know about ThePerfection, which is being billed as “Black Swan with a cello player,” but that is a simplified version of this complex film. Similar to other twisty horror films like Martyrs, The Perfection features a plot that changes direction multiple times throughout its runtime. The marketing team is going to have a helluva time promoting it without giving away major plot points. I’m loathed to even write a lengthy review about it for fear of giving too much away, but I’ll do my best. Word to the wise? Go into The Perfection blind. Don’t watch any trailers and don’t read any reviews (feel free to bookmark this one and come back later, though). Just know I’m giving it a 5/5 and it’s my favorite film I’ve seen at the festival (so far).
Both Williams and Browning are stupendous here. Browning, so talented in Netflix’s Dear White People, imbues Lizzie with a magnetic combination of innocence and rebelliousness before her life gets turned upside down. She makes the perfect foil for Williams, who is the MVP here. Her Charlotte is such a complex character that simply labeling her the villain of the film would be a disservice. Williams is making use of her association with the privileged rich girl persona she channeled in girls by choosing very layered and devious characters. If her goal is to not be typecast as a “Marnie,” then roles like Get Out‘s Rose and The Perfection‘s Charlotte will most definitely aid her in doing so. Though Rose was still a privileged rich girl, she was able to convey a sense of menace, but it was only really touched upon in a few scenes of that film. The Perfection really allows her to go off the rails. It’s a fascinating performance and incredibly compelling. Weber is equally strong in his role as the girls’ mentor, but to say much more about his performance would go into spoiler territory.
Shepard has had some experience dealing with dark comedies, but nothing quite as insane as this. Working with a script that he co-wrote with Eric C. Charmelo and Nicole Snyder (both of whom created the vastly underrated Sarah Michelle Gellar series Ringer), Shepard casually borrows visual elements from a multitude of other film classics. He has a lot of fun with the visuals as well (sans for one scene of shoddy CGI bugs). The film is divided into four chapters, and it would be easy to assume that you were watching an anthology film if they didn’t all share the same characters and narrative. Each chapter has its own distinct tone and feel, making for a somewhat jarring (in a good way) viewing experience. If there was ever a film to keep you on your toes, The Perfection is it.
The Perfection consistently shocks and surprises and takes so many twists and turns you don’t expect that you’re bound to get whiplash. It is a fabulously twisted film that can’t easily fit into one genre. It’s all at once a horror film, a comedy, a revenge thriller, a character study, a trashy grindhouse flick and so much more. It calls to mind films like Heathers, Martyrs, Audition and Oldboy, but still manages to maintain its own identity. The demented subject matter will likely turn off some viewers, but if you can stomach it, don’t miss The Perfection. It is the embodiment of its namesake.
The Perfection had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest.