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"The Perfection" Review

My girlfriend tipped me to check out The Perfection, one of Netflix's seemingly endless string of original releases. As she'd done a few years ago with Knock Knock, she'd warned me to not watch the trailer - she's not kidding; I usually put trailers at the bottom of these reviews, but this gives away so much and it's the thing that autoplays while you're scrolling in Netflix! - or any reviews, but to just watch it because it was short (90 mins) and entertaining.

OK, but same as with Knock Knock how do you review a movie where the surprises are the whole point especially when even warning that there are surprises ruins the surprise because you're always trying to figure out what the [heck] is going on? (see: watching any M. Night Shyamalan movie) Here goes nothing...

Allison Williams (Marnie from Girls; she'll always be Marnie) stars as Marnie Charlotte, a young woman whose mother has just died. After she leaves her mother's deathbed, she travels to Shanghai where we're somewhat clumsily told she used to be a cello prodigy, but had to leave her uber-elite music academy as a young teenager when her mother had a stroke a decade before and in caring for her, sacrificed her musical career. (No other family? No father?) She's been allowed by the school's headmaster, Anton (Steven Weber channeling Ron Rifkin) to come and help select a student for a scholarship to the school in Boston.

Literally looming (on billboards) over her is Lizzie (Logan Browning from Netflix's Dear White People), a cellist five years younger than Marnie who was coming into the academy as she was leaving and went on to a celebrated career and is the lead judge in the scholarship hunt. Marnie is tentative around her, but put at ease when Lizzie confesses to being a huge fangirl of hers and an inspiration to her playing. This rapidly sets them on a path of drinking, dancing and, of course, lesbian sex, because of course it does.

The morning after, a very hungover Lizzie prepares for a roughing-it trip into the interior of China as an adventure and invites Marnie along. However, it isn't long before her hangover seems to be taking a severe turn and her ill-feelings of intense thirst and nausea lead to the pair being tossed off the bus in the middle of nowhere where Lizzie begins exhibiting serious body horror symptoms. What is happening to her and what can she do about it?

And here is where the synopsis has to end about a third of the way into The Perfection's run time because this is where the twists and reveals begin. As mentioned above, I hate even knowing something is going to happen in a story because my mind goes into overdrive trying to guess what's coming, so I hate having to spoil the reader's ability to go in blindly, but as a critic one has to criticize as best as possible. (Again, I'm not kidding about not watching the trailer. They blow it all 50 seconds in.)

While I was genuinely intrigued as to which path the story was going to take in the build-up, after the Big Moment (which I called just ahead of confirmation) and subsequent revelation as to what really happened, I was able to anticipate pretty much most of the twists and turns, albeit not until right before they occurred as the drift became clear. The problem with this structure is that after repetition, it makes it even easier to spot the twists. Also, the last act, which is meant to be truly bonkers, gets so ludicrous that it got annoying and I say this as an avid Riverdale viewer.

Browning is the MVP here with some really heavy lifting done making what could've been a shrill or hysterical caricature grounded. Williams is doing that slightly chilly, overly-engaged-yet-aloof thing that was her stock in trade as Marnie and the temptress in Get Out, but it works.

Director/co-writer Richard Shepard's IMDB stretches back 30 years with a couple of "I've heard of, but not seen that" titles, a dozen episodes of Girls (thus Marnie), and his feature debut was The Linguini Incident, a 1991 trivia answer starring Rosanna Arquette and David Bowie. (I'm not sure how he keeps getting work considering his movies make squat, but someone likes him.) Assisted by some snappy editing by David Dean, Shepard's storytelling is initial engaging, but somehow manages to end up simultaneously going too far and nowhere near far enough. (As crazy as it gets, it should've both gone crazier AND reigned it in a bit.)

Score: 5/10. Worth watching on Netflix.

Trailer omitted because it really is a spoilerific thing, but if you just gotta see it, go here.


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