Do you believe that perfection creates madness, or madness creates perfection? Time and time again, film explores the relationship between the artist and the pursuit of complete and total mastery of their craft. What will it take to be the best of the best? What will be sacrificed? In most cases, the artist pays a hefty price for the highest form of achievement, but is it all worth it in the end? All too often, the artist loses relationships, personal autonomy, and in some instances, even sanity. It’s a tightrope that many must walk for the sake of a perfect performance and the hearts of spectators. The latest film to explore this symbiotic relationship is Richard Shepherd’s The Perfection. The Perfection takes viewers in the dark recesses of the competitive world of music.
If The Perfection teaches us anything, it promptly shows us that it’s a master of the art of deception.
The Perfection is one of the most exciting, and controversial, films on Netflix’s slate this year. It’s polarizing, likely to earn its fair share of adoration and condemnation. It’s the kind of ride that allows you to believe you’re heading in the right direction, but then takes a sharp left turn for an unexpected detour. While The Perfection is certainly not perfect, it will keep you entertained. In the simplest terms, it’s batshit crazy, and will definitely leave you wanting to know more.
Following the death of her mother, former musical prodigy Charlotte (Allison Williams) seeks to re-immerse herself in the music world after an extended absence. Her journey takes her to Shanghai, where’s she’s reunited with her instructor Anton (Steven Weber), and his wife Paloma (Alaina Huffman). While there, Charlotte meets Anton’s prized pupil, Elizabeth (Logan Browning). Right off the bat, Charlotte and Elizabeth are attracted to each other. They share an identical upbringing, and a passion for music. What binds them together is their sacrifice for the sake of their talents. Both trained in Anton’s school, the women were groomed for excellence from childhood.
Even though the couple spends a night together, Charlotte decides to follow Elizabeth to the Chinese countryside, where their relationship takes an unexpected turn. Is Charlotte on a personal mission to destroy everything that Elizabeth has worked for? We can’t be too sure.
The Perfection switches beats on multiple occasions, interchanging between genres. Sectioned into chapters, each new installment is more outlandish than the last. At one point in the film, it’s a body horror, then quickly veers into the psychological. The film manipulates viewers, allowing them to believe that The Perfection is about one thing, but then switches off to something entirely different. On the surface, it appears to be about the bitter rivalry of two star cellists, but there’s much more than meets the eye. The Perfection‘s plot twists are akin to a detective’s investigation, complete with lines drawn in every direction that you can imagine. Reminiscent of films such as Black Swan, and The Handmaiden, The Perfection toes the line between what’s really happening, and how the leads perceive the events in their lives.
One thing that The Perfection allows is for its leads to be, well, imperfect. Charlotte and Elizabeth are ruthless, vengeful, and at times, downright frightening. In The Perfection, the lines between hero and villain are hazy. On some occasions, it’s hard to know who we should be rooting for. Richard Shepherd’s film allows his lead actresses to shine, pushing their acting abilities to the limit. Both Williams and Browning interchange roles, playing the victimized innocent, then the vengeful, psychotic villainess. Williams has made a name for herself as an unsuspecting antagonist, and The Perfection capitalizes on this. Browning, always a gifted actress, hits a lot of great notes, letting audiences know what she is capable of.
The Perfection‘s bloody crescendo is an unexpected one, but it’s satisfying. Although it doesn’t truly tie any loose plot strings, it serves a full helping of revenge. Depending on your tastes, The Perfection may strike a chord with you, in both good ways and bad. Either way, it will have its audience that will appreciate a film that will give a good mind game.