It was just two years ago that Allison Williams surprised fans of her HBO series Girls by playing a closet psycho hiding behind woke, white-privilege drag in Get Out. That movie was praised to the hilt for a lot of deserving reasons, but Williams’ image transformation was one of its most delicious surprises. The actress used her calm, composed persona as a stealth weapon disguising something sinister lurking beneath her popular-girl facade.
No one is going to mistake the new Netflix psychological thriller, The Perfection, with the heady metaphorical jolts of Jordan Peele’s film. It’s way too campy and preposterous for that. Its ambitions are pitched too low. But one of its perverse pleasures is seeing Williams make good on that earlier dark-passenger promise.
Williams stars as Charlotte, a former cello prodigy who, years earlier, was forced to withdraw from a prestigious classical music academy in Boston because her mother was terminally ill. In the years that followed, another even younger star pupil took her place — Logan Browning’s Lizzie. And it’s fair to say that Charlotte is none too pleased about this changing of the guard. As Glenn Close’s Alex Forrest famously said in Fatal Attraction, I won’t be ignored.
So Charlotte reaches out to the slimy, effete taskmaster who runs the academy (Steven Weber) and smooth-talks her way back into the fold. He invites Charlotte to judge a scholarship try-out for young cello supernovas in Shanghai. There, Charlotte and Lizzie warily sniff around one another, swap disingenuous compliments, then fall into bed with post-coital plans of back-packing through China together.
I’ve always felt that bold-faced, three-alarm spoiler warnings were a bit silly. But giving away too much of what happens in The Perfection would rob audiences of this delirious little film’s biggest and most ridiculous thrills. It’s an insane movie packed with so many overheated twists and turnabouts that it’s best to know as little as possible going in. Is it laughably over the top? Absolutely. But it also sadistically toys with the viewer in the best B-movie ways. Some folks may laugh when director Richard Shepard wants their jaws to drop. But it delivers. The Perfection is a pure hit of twisted, absurd camp catnip. B