Movies · Reviews

‘The Perfection’ Review: A Masterful Work of Tension and Brutality (Fantastic Fest 2018)

Allison Williams and Logan Browning lead what is easily one of the year’s best thrillers.
The Perfection
By  · Published on September 21st, 2018

When you walk out of a movie like The Perfection, it’s easy to get fired up and drop some extra-large hyperbole on your social network of choice. It’s a film full of rage and forward momentum. It’s a rollercoaster ride. And once off the ride, your instinctual reaction is to (a) high five the person next to you and (b) express a desire to ride that particular ride again.

That’s step one in how it gets you hooked.

Veteran TV director Richard Shepard — whose credits range from Girls to Criminal Minds to 30 Rock — has delivered the kind of movie that sticks with you. You remember Allison Williams‘ dynamic and confident performance as Charlotte, a young woman who, a former world-class cellist who was forced to put her dreams on hold to care for her ailing mother. When we meet Charlotte, her mother lies freshly dead in her bed. Elsewhere, two family members wonder within earshot of the audience what Charlotte will do now that she’s regained personal freedom. And when we watch her reunite with her longtime mentor Anton (played by Steven Weber) and his new protege Lizzie, played by the super-magnetic Logan Browning.

Later, when we learn a bit more about why Charlotte chose this as her path forward, is when things go off the rails. And to be honest, saying anything more wouldn’t spoil the film, but sometimes it really is better to let you see how things unfold for yourself. That’s part of what sticks with you, the notion that this is a movie you can’t wait to talk about, but it’s also the kind of movie you’d rather not talk about with someone who hasn’t seen it.

What I can tell you about The Perfection is that it’s a sinister yarn that is hell-bent on keeping you guessing, using narrative tricks to pervert the audience’s sense of the truth, all while being a phenomenal piece of entertainment. It bares its roots that look like De Palma’s best manifestations of tension, brutality that is gnarly and in full view, exposing — and no, I’m not exaggerating — the kind of bloodlust you’d see in horror films from South Korea or Norway. It’s also taught and meticulous, the kind of film that will leave you sweaty and disoriented. It’s a hell of a ride.

Every year, we seem to only get a few thrillers that are genuinely memorable. Because yeah, there’s a lot of trash out there. And there’s some trash in The Perfection, but it’s all the best kind. It rages against power, manipulation, and abuse, sometimes with deft precision and at others with erratic violence. What stands out is the film’s ability to control the emotional headspace of its audience even as the minds of its characters are spiraling out of control. And at the end, right before all the hyperbole starts, if you feel the weight of what its characters have been through, that’s the film burying itself inside you. That’s where it lives now.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)