The Perfection: Film Review

What are a few severed limbs lost in the service of dismembering oppressive patriarchal institutions?

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Publication: Sissy Screens

I thought Allison Williams had achieved peak ‘crazy’ in Get Out’s denouement, her ponytailed Rose quietly snacking on dry Froot Loops and sipping milk through a straw while searching for her next suitor/victim online to the soundtrack of ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life’. The Perfection sees the actor continue to blaze down a post-Girls psychological horror path, dragging Marnie’s bloodied corpse behind her.

The Perfection sees Allison Williams continue to blaze down a post-Girls psychological horror path, dragging Marnie’s bloodied corpse behind her.

The Perfection’s success rests on the strength of Williams’ portrayal of Charlotte, a former cello prodigy who quit her music training to care for her sick mother. Now an orphaned adult, she reaches out to former mentor Anton and joins him and the staff of his prestigious music academy at a scouting event in Shanghai. It is here she is introduced to Lizzie (Logan Browning, Dear White People), her heiress apparent who went on to achieve the acclaim and fame that eluded her.

The black swan to Charlotte’s lily-white one, the flirtatious Lizzie seduces her and the two forge an unlikely romantic connection. One of the film’s strongest scenes intercuts the pair’s performance of a duet with moments from their tryst, culminating in an orgiastic crescendo. The ensuing pillow talk prompts Lizzie to invite her fellow alumna to accompany her on a two-week, no-frills tour of rural China. This is where the horrors (and, warning: spoilers) start.

Charlotte casually producing a cleaver and telling a delirious Lizzie “You know what you have to do” as bugs envelop her arm, ranks as high in the annals of preludes to filmic amputations as Nicole Kidman beckoning “bring me the anatomy book” in The Beguiled.

A nightmarish bus trip—replete with maggot-filled vomit and other abject horrors—ushers in a searing commentary about the abuse of power in the arts. Using a heady mix of flashbacks, misdirections and religious symbolism, director/co-writer Richard Shepard crafts a taut and darkly entertaining film. While the narrative ploys he uses may not be sophisticated (such as key scenes literally rewinding to reveal another character’s perspective), the film isn’t striving for high art or subtlety. In fact, the viewing pleasure derives largely from the camp-ness of the violent sequences (Charlotte casually producing a cleaver and telling a delirious Lizzie “You know what you have to do” as bugs envelop her arm, ranks as high in the annals of preludes to filmic amputations as Nicole Kidman beckoning “bring me the anatomy book” in The Beguiled).

If you’re not a fan of body horror, nor familiar with rape revenge film tropes, this movie may prove too macabre. For everyone else, what are a few severed limbs lost in the service of dismembering oppressive patriarchal institutions?

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