the perfection | richard shepard | eric c. charmelo | nicole snyder | allison williams | steven weber | alaina huffman | drama | thriller | united states | torture | logan browning | winnie hung | glynis davies | christina jastrzembska | doralynn mui | graeme duffy
Film: The Perfection
Director: Richard Shepard
Writer: Eric C. Charmelo, Richard Shepard and Nicole Snyder
Starring: Allison Williams, Steven Weber and Alaina Huffman
This was a film that I heard about earlier in 2019 when it was released to Netflix. There was some buzz around it where I think fans outside of the genre were shocked while those I listen to and read their thoughts on social media were mixed on it. I decided that during December and my year-end round up, I would finally give it a viewing. The synopsis is when a troubled musical prodigy Charlotte (Allison Williams) seeks out Elizabeth (Logan Browning), the new star pupil of her former school, the encounter sends both musicians down a sinister path with shocking consequences.
We start this with Charlotte at home with her dying mother. She is close to passing away and through family members talking, we learn that Charlotte gave up a promising career as a professional cello player to take care of her mother. She was actually a prodigy as well. It then gives us flashes seeing that Charlotte as a younger girl was troubled.
Now that her mother has passed away, she goes to Shanghai. She sees a billboard for Lizzie, who we see took over as the star at the Bachoff Academy when she left. Charlotte then gets to meet Elizabeth along with their mutual teacher, Anton (Steven Weber), as well as his wife, Paloma (Alaina Huffman). They’re holding a competition between three young girls to earn a scholarship to Bachoff Academy where they would live and train to be like Lizzie and Charlotte. The two former star pupils will also judge the competition as well.
The women hit it off and we learn that Lizzie is taking a two week vacation, something she hasn’t done in years. She is turned on by Charlotte and asks her to come along. They end having a relationship. Things take a turn though when Lizzie isn’t feeling well. Earlier we saw a man get violently ill. Things aren’t as they seem though and what is really going on here is much darker than we realize.
I wanted to go a bit vague with my recap here as I don’t want to spoil where this goes. I heard some podcasts non-spoiler about this and they all stated that things took the turn like I did. I will say that I do like where it goes as much as someone can like where it does.
It has a good set up for sure. It doesn’t really play its hand too early. We see that Charlotte gave up her life and get the hint that she is bothered by it. What I like though is not necessarily for the reasons that we think. We get images as well there might be more to the story than what we knew as well. It was pretty heart-breaking if I’m going to be perfectly honest. What I think I’m going to do here is something new that this film has been out for a bit where I’ll have a spoilers section at the bottom of this that will be labeled for those interested.
The last thing about the story I wanted to go over is the setting for the first couple chapters. When Charlotte and Lizzie go off by themselves they do so in China. Charlotte cannot speak Mandarin which gets scary though is that Lizzie can’t really talk with how sick she gets. It is terrifying being alone in a foreign country without a way to communicate.
I’ll move to the pacing, which I thought was good. It comes in at 90 minutes or so. It doesn’t waste time in introducing us to the characters and building the story. What I don’t like is the editing though. There are a couple of different times where we see something, then it will rewind to show us what really happened. I’d much rather revealing this information in a different way as this just feels out of place. There are a lot of flashbacks in this as well to the past, which did take me out of what we were seeing at times. I did like the ending. I feel the poster and why a letter is backwards makes sense knowing how this ends. I do feel it is satisfying to what we learned happened.
The acting in this I thought was good across the board as well. Williams is solid as Charlotte. Her performance here is quite subtle if I’m doing to be honest and she can play it so well. We know that she had issues from things in her past and she was quite sheltered, but it does really well in slowly showing the depths of the damage. Browning was also really good, but I like that she is on top of the world and all of that shatters for her. Seeing how broken she actually is as well I thought worked to see she isn’t that much different from Charlotte. Weber is great and I love the façade of his character as well. He is actually a jerk the more we learn about him to put it nicely. Huffman and the rest of the cast I thought were solid in rounding out for what was needed.
Something I did have a slight issue with was the effects. I’m a bit more forgiving though when we truly learn some things though. They did use some CGI that doesn’t look great. I will give the film credit though, the practical effects were really good. The climax had some good use here and I was down for how things play out there for sure. I also thought it was shot very well.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. Being that this film is part musical and surrounding musicians I thought it worked well. It isn’t a score that necessarily stood out to me as one that I will revisit, but it works for what they needed here. The cello music sounded good and there are some selections that raised the tension in scenes as well. Definitely thought that worked out well for what was needed.
Now with that said, this is a film that I did enjoy, but I didn’t love. I did like the structure of the story itself and it didn’t play its hand too early allowing the mystery to build. It has a good runtime, but I had issues with some of the editing if I’m going to be honest. The acting was good as were the practical effects and the soundtrack fit for what was needed. The CGI I wasn’t a fan of, but I’m a little bit forgiving for what we get at the reveal. This is definitely a film that had some good aspects, but it probably going to come up short for my year-end list. I found this to be above average overall.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
As for the spoiler talk, we learn that Charlotte was poisoning Lizzie. We think due to jealousy and that is exactly what Lizzie thinks as she cut off her hand. She is hallucinating it was covered in bugs. This actually derails Lizzie’s life to the point where she’s going to be kicked out of the school she has called home. Anton informs her they don’t have a place for her if she cannot play, but they’re willing to pay for her treatments and an apartment. This is where it takes a turn though.
The images that flash show that Charlotte had to seek aid in a mental institution when she was younger. The reason being that she was tortured and sexually abused by Anton and his two other teachers, Theis (Mark Kandborg) and Geoffrey (Graeme Duffy). Paloma knows this is going on, but does nothing to stop it. This is why it is quite heartbreaking that in order for these young girls to reach ‘perfection’ they are sexually abused and tortured to prevent them from making mistakes. There’s definitely an idea of dominance in it and abuse of power.
The reason though that Charlotte did what she did to Lizzie was that she knew what was happening to her and knew that there was nothing that she could say to get her to flee from her life. She had been in it for too long. This is an interesting time for a film like this to come out, especially with the ‘Me Too’ movement. I feel this film is calling out those in power doing the horrible acts that they are. Anton tries to justify it that his grandfather did it to his father and his father to him. He even states that Theis and Geoffrey went through it as well. It is really a vicious cycle of victims becoming the monster that hurt them. It is good to see them get her revenge in the end for what they’re endured.