Now Streaming: “The Perfection” serves up feminism, horror

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(Spoiler alert: The plot of “The Perfection” is discussed and some details given away.)

When promos for the Netflix movie “The Perfection” began to air, the premise seemed to be that a virus infected people and gave them, um, bugs? As in, insects? The infection was to be integral to the lives of young women who played the cello. Not a winning premise for most people.

As it turns out, the whole issue with insects in “The Perfection” is a tangent to a much larger set of problems that actually create the backstory and inform the plot. So, if there is a detraction in the film, it is the presence of the aforementioned bugs. Although, because of them, then Charlotte (Allison Williams) is able to convince Lizzy (Logan Browning) to do something to herself that kicks the movie’s action and tension up considerably.

But, watching “The Perfection” requires keeping track of the metaphors. Of course, non-literal representation is not necessarily a bad thing, but they do make some audiences wonder, ‘Were all those metaphors necessary?’

It is easy to play armchair film editor and discuss what would have made a better movie. But when there is what feels like unnecessary content, viewers cannot help it. This is especially problematic when one of the movie’s big themes is revealed. The idea is so important, and could have been portrayed sans vomit and insects, and with more (implied) examples of the problem (Hint: sexual assault of teenage girls).

Audiences do not need depictions of “gross” to see the ways that women might sabotage each other to win the favor of a powerful man who has actually abused them both. It would have been nice to see the victims-turned-rivals-turned-victors find the other victims together. Then, the ending would have felt earned. Although, to be fair, it was nice to see the Charlotte and Lizzie finally working together to overcome Lizzie’s trauma-induced disability.

However “extra” the metaphors might feel, the movie manages to engage audiences. It takes viewers on an international trek following the two classical music prodigies as they share passions that are both physical and musical, but mostly physical. The film also depicts the potential loneliness that comes with being a prodigy and having to focus so much on training that the prodigy fails to be a child or teenager. Because of what in the film can be considered harrowing or poignant, tension is created in ways that differ from tradition horror movies. There is no masked, armed killer whose onscreen presence comes with theme music. Instead, the characters are privileged and well-appointed. It is unclear at first who the villain is. Once it is made clear, things believed to be true are destroyed and the two leads can get the ending they have worked for.

“The Perfection” despite its flaws, attempts to do something different, to redefine who the villain is, and what he or she might look like. The movie also allows would-be victims to have an unconventional victory that fits their unique situation.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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