Perfection is a funny thing. We as a society obsess over it, despite its unattainability, an unhealthy fixation on striving for the impossible. In the words of the great Vince Lombardi, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” Although you probably don’t want to break this tidbit to the team behind the hallucinatory new sci-fi thriller, Perfect (2018), it would totally shoot their already paper-thin premise straight to hell.
The film opens with a young man in serious trouble. Our unnamed male lead (we only get to know him as Vessel 13, played by Pretty Little Liars’ Garrett Wareing) awakens to the bloody corpse of a young woman. Much like us, he has no idea how he got here or what exactly happened. He makes a panicked phone call to his mother, telling her he needs help. The sense of alarm seems short lived, however. The next thing we see is his mother (Abbie Cornish: Lavender 2017 – read our review here) sprawled nonchalantly in the back of her decadent limo, escorting her son to a clinic to get help. To her, the fact that he apparently murdered someone is secondary to keeping up appearances.
The clinic looks more like some posh, swanky luxury spa resort, a picturesque Garden of Eden secluded in the woods. Every client could pass for a supermodel. Beautiful, hard bodies, as far as the eye can see, are sprawled on the modernist furniture or lounging by the pool. Here in this paradise is where Vessel 13 is to receive his treatments, which are intended to kill off his more primal urges, making him fit to live in civilized society. But with each passing day, he seems less and less human, and the urges seem to be only getting stronger. Will perfection come at too high of a cost?
Visually speaking, Writer/Director Eddie Alcazar’s (Tapia 2014) Perfect is easily one of the most striking films I’ve ever seen. Matthias Koenigswieser’s lush cinematography and bold use of color is absolutely breathtaking, calling to mind a similar feast for the eyeballs, The Neon Demon (our review here). Regrettably, much like the world on display here, the beauty is only skin deep. There’s very little in the way of plot or storyline, leaving much open to interpretation. The worlds of beauty and commercialism, as well as the idea of perfection being something you can purchase, seem to fall directly into the crosshairs. But when we reach our final destination, nothing really feels resolved.
I really wanted to love this film, and although I won’t say that I hated it, Perfect was definitely a head-scratcher for me. It certainly was intriguing and had a lot of the right ingredients. The mixture of futuristic sci-fi and body horror combined with the astounding visuals had me licking my chops, hoping for something akin to Starry Eyes, or the aforementioned The Neon Demon. But while those films have rich storylines and satisfying conclusions, Perfect does not. It’s trying too hard to be intellectual and allegorical, but in the end, the film just feels hugely pretentious. I honestly would like to see it again, to see if further viewings unearth anything new. But as it stands, Perfect ends up being pretty far from it.