James Cole Clay // Film Critic
Richard Shepard’s THE PERFECTION is a film that adopts many forms for a whirlwind of emotions, ranging from confused to ultimately thrilled by its final moments. There hasn’t been a thriller quite like this for the #MeToo era of filmmaking. For a hypnotic piece of filmmaking, Shepard’s film has a lot on its mind in terms of style to get its message across with a wicked grin and vicious results. These types of bonkers thrills are what hyperbolic reactions are made for. It’s too rare of an occurrence that an erotic thriller is able to convey its themes with such tragedy and grace, while still having its tongue firmly planted in cheek. Trust me. This is one film you’ll want to go in as fresh as possible and let its filmmaker’s twisted mind paint a bloody canvas.
In the film, a former cello prodigy, Charlotte (Allison Williams), arrives back at the conservatory where she once studied under the well-respected Anton (Steven Weber). Charlotte seeks out Anton’s new star student, Lizzie (Logan Browning). Following a dueling cello performance, the two share each other’s talents that go beyond the bow. (Williams expands on her role in GET OUT, teasing the audience only letting us into Charlotte’s mind when and where she desires.)
The story takes us on an unnerving alluring journey that morphs between genres with the visceral sophistication of a Brian De Palma film. But Shepard’s film finds its own voice. Essentially, it works as a two-hander between Williams and Browning; their dynamics shift in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Even though the actors know where the story is going, they never quite show their hand – only hints at their true motives.
There is an extended bus sequence that’s a showcase for Browning’s talents (she’s effortlessly cool in Netflix’s DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, but here she’s unhinged) that will have audiences talking for years to come. It’s a wild ride to go on. To say anything more is to spoil the film as a whole. THE PERFECTION is a film best served cold.
Shepard has made his mark bringing style and substance to television, mainly being known for directing multiple episodes of GIRLS on HBO. He’s a sharp filmmaker who does quite well being sensitive and cruel with a purpose in his work. What he does best here, aside from his style, is every act that could be offensive, or exploitative, has a purpose for its character and evokes a feeling from its audience.
A few years ago, Shepard directed the excellent dark comedy DOM HEMINGWAY starring Jude Law. This showed his skills as a filmmaker: to paint an undesirable portrait of a person, but make his audience love every vile second spent with this vile human being. With THE PERFECTION, he’s cemented himself as genre filmmaker to watch.
This film is an absolute blast. It’s an empowering message marred in horror, tragedy and overall WTF gasps. It’s surely one of the most riveting films of the year and will be burned into your brain long after its ghastly crescendo.
THE PERFECTION hits Netflix May 24th.