I already did my layout/review of all of my favorite horror movies awhile back. It’s June, which means it’s Pride month, which means I don’t want to see or be seen by straight people for the next 30 days. So when buzz around Netflix’s The Perfection started up, I got excited and decided to give it a watch.
Before I had watched the movie I saw the trailer online and was not thrilled at all. From the outside it looks like a film where Allison Williams plays a blue-eyed devil hellbent on destroying the life of another black person. But upon watching, the movie unfolds and reveals itself to be a really complex and twisty horror thriller that I’ve wanted for awhile (though it doesn’t fully live up to my expectations.)
We spend roughly the first 30 minutes of this movie thinking it’s a straight up contagion style “virus outbreak” film, which can be thrilling in itself. Allison Williams plays Charlotte, a cello prodigy that had to give up her dream to take care of an ill mother. Logan Browning plays Lizzie, the young protege of the academy’s head, Anton Bachoff, who takes her place. Lizzie launches into fame while Charlotte is left in reclusiveness until her mother dies and she is free to return to her dream at the Bachoff Academy.
There is sexual tension between the two women from jump, which is rare even in lesbian movies written by actual lesbians. We are always sold the story line of a straight housewife who falls in love with some mysterious dyke that swoops into town, the professor that has an inappropriate and manipulative relationship with a student, or the lesbian couple that has been together for so long they’ve forgotten to have sex and so heartbreak and drama ensues. I really loved that there was zero conflict around the sexuality between the two of them. They are into each other, and they have amazing sex that is split with scenes of them playing cello as a duo (maybe the hottest thing I’ve ever seen? when did cello become sexy? the fINgErsSS)
After the movie escapes it’s first plot of outbreak story, it seems to veer toward “predatory lesbian jealousy story.” On a bus trip, Lizzie falls incredibly ill with explosive diarrhea and vomit laced with maggots. The tension culminates with Lizzie deep in psychosis that has convinced her there are bugs crawling under her skin. Charlotte, the ever-helpful girlfriend and obvious dyke, somehow has a meat clever on hand and convinces Lizzie to cut her hand off. Through a weird and poorly done rewind scene, we see that Charlotte has drugged Lizzie with medication she stole from her now deceased mother, leading her into a hallucination that she has been infested by bugs, so that she will cut off her hand and never be able to play the cello again.
This plot direction falls apart fairly quickly though, because Charlotte does not return to Bachoff to reclaim her throne leaving Lizzie to die. Finally we get to the real motivation: after leaving Bachoff and dealing with her mothers illness, Charlotte is able to leave the grip of Anton, who is revealed to be a serial rapist that preys on the young students at his academy. Charlotte gets Lizzie to cut her hand off because she “knew she needed to do something dramatic for Lizzie to see the truth (paraphrasing here).”
I’ll be honest, the scene where Anton is revealed as a true monster and he steps in front of the camera naked is one of the most chilling scenes I’ve seen in a movie. I instinctively trembled and jumped back from my laptop when I saw it.
Rape revenge is a controversial genre. I think much of the controversy comes from the idea that revenge for all rape victims looks the same. I’ve seen a few reviews on line that have called it “male-gaze-y” and a patriarchal view on what women victims of sexual violence want as justice. Speaking for myself, I loved it. When I was raped, I had daily violent fantasies of what I would like to see happen to the man that raped me, much more violent than Anton’s end. Some of us want to see our rapists in jail, others want a head on a stick. Rapists can never experience the emotional turmoil and violence they have inflicted on their victims, and it’s natural to want to see that violence reflected externally. One thing I also want to point out is we never see the rape on screen but can still understand the trauma and pain of it. Toward the end of the movie, a new young student is brought into Bachoff, and we as viewers are left to fear for her fate. But, she escapes the violence of Anton and the violence of watching he and his accomplices murdered. Many rape revenge stories fall victim to the problem of balance: the movie spends most of its time with the woman being victimized—and gruesomely so—and finally gets to the revenge at the very end. Though the revenge plot line is revealed to us later, in the timeline in the story it has been happening for the entire film.
”The Perfection” was written by two men and one woman, and directed by a man, which is another criticism of the movie. I have no bits to argue there. When dealing with the violence that women face it is always best to have women in the know at the helm. As outlined earlier, the movie jumps genre, it is sometimes laughably bad, incoherent, and impossible. I found the dialogue to be a bit painful and on the nose at times. Still as a survivor and a black lesbian I saw a lot of my desires reflected in it. When I first started talking to people about being raped I was dismayed to find that no one would let me be angry. All of the conversations were about being tender and healing and moving on, but I didn’t want any of that. I wanted to break shit and scream and hurt him beyond repair. This movie gave me that, which is why most rape revenge movies do well or get obliterated, because they do not portray a realistic view of the victim’s choice after the fact. Having been through the trial process myself, it is arduous and often dissatisfying. Realism is tired, let me live out the life I wanted through films on Netflix!
Another point of contention in the movie is that Lizzie has to endure great physical pain and trauma that changes her body’s ability, questioning why that was necessary for the plot to move forward. Honestly, this was very upsetting for me too, and I don’t have a precise answer except that this is in a universe of an almost campy reality. The movie is outrageous, the name of the prestigious composer academy is Bachoff for fucks sake. If you’re still on the hunt for some reason though, I’ll offer this: a friend once told me that leaving an abusive relationship is like breaking your wrists to free your hands: you have to go through some incredible pain to ultimately be free. The wrist-breaking for LIzzie is ultimately a very literal severing of her flesh and bone, but she eventually sees the truth and is able to get away from Anton’s manipulation and control. The final scene is her and Charlotte playing the piano in tandem, both of them missing one hand (Charlotte lost hers in the final fight scene), and staring satisfied at a limbless, incapacitated Anton. It’s a truly beautiful ending, and even though I still have conflicting feelings about the amputations, I can kinda see why they happened.
overall, we stan two dykes that get their revenge and get to fuck each other while playing cello in tandem.
I didn’t do anything for Pride this season but I’ve seen a lot of online discourse from so called radical queers that has upset me so I wanna say:
Lesbian is not a bad word, it is not synonymous with TERF, being a woman that sleeps with men and women doesn’t make you more enlightened or woke than the lesbians out here. Fuck y’all.
Kink is an integral part of pride. People in leather collars is not the same as having full on sex in public. Stop repackaging homophobia and espousing it as some new radical take when really you just hate gay people as much as the straights.
put on your vegan leather chaps and be safe out there
A dyke and her tarantula.