Perfect lets you know what you’re in for from its opening shot: A pulsing abstract image with a heavy seizure warning shifts in shape and gains clarity and texture as a ponderous voice recites Bachelor’s Degree philosophy about life and love, the nature of truth, how the only reality is love, and all that sort of jibber jabber. This monologue can’t mean much of anything in the context of the film, since the film hasn’t even yet begun, and its weight certainly hasn’t been earned enough to hang in our minds. At this moment they’re just words, nothing more.
And by the end of Perfect they’re still just words.
Director: Eddie Alcazar
Release Date: May 17 (Limited)
We follow a young man, this pouty male model of boyish perfection. After he kills his girlfriend, his mother sends him to a secluded sort of forest resort to heal himself, to make himself perfect. She was healed there as well, and sitting in her pure white car draped in a pure white fur, she’s a picture of the crisp and clean ideal of perfection. How she feels about her son and how he feels about her remains something of a mystery. Perfect is played with a stylistically detached hollowness where characters speak in philosophy and betray little emotion. There’s not much to a backstory, to a life between the two of them which we see or feel. Characters are often little more than vessels moving the story along.
Once the young man reaches this healing forest resort, he must choose a path and begin a journey, but he refuses to choose a path. He meets a girl who’s ahead on her own path, and there seems to be a romance here preordained by the facility’s owner (the guy who does all the ponderous voice overs which fill a ton of the film), and you get the idea that it’s their love that’s true and will heal him. But then that falls apart and becomes nothing.
That can be said for most of Perfect. It’s just a lot of pieces—some of which are something special—that never come together into anything meaningful. What could you expect when you make a movie under an hour-and-a-half that’s supposed to tackle issues concerning the nature of truth, existence, love, healing, destruction, and perfection? We get a monologue about caterpillars becoming butterflies, but nothing sheds its cocoon here.
This is a shame, since it wastes some downright gorgeous visual material. Perfect purely as a visual experience is an intoxicating blend of cyberpunk, vaporwave, lush nature, heavy metal music videos, and Calvin Klein commercials. There’s character and personality to the images. In order to make himself perfect, the young man receives little action figure-type packages which contain a razor blade and a new piece of himself. He follows the smiling instructions on the back of the package to carve a chunk of himself, which pulls free as a solid red cube you’d find in a geology textbook. In its place he implants a cube as clear and symmetrical as a cut diamond. There’s this space obelisk throwing neon above the forest. Black-and-white scenes show horror imagery straight down to a baby being eaten like a peach. Hot and fit people strut and swim everywhere with easy sexuality. Visually there’s humor, horror, sci-fi, savagery, passion, and despair. Prick your fingernail even an inch beneath any of that, though, and you’ll find only dead air by way of plot or theme.
One moment shows all the best and worst Perfect has to offer. There’s a curled infant with a plastic body, one horrible eye moving in the socket, and a fleshy tongue flailing. It’s a horror image set to give Eraserhead a run for its money, but where Eraserhead elevated its nightmare infant by pushing the nightmare of fatherhood and a sudden domestic life, Perfect drops its infant in a nightmare of a cologne advertisement.
Short and beautiful, Perfect might have been something without endless voice-overs that preach and seek to explain what the film is about rather than letting viewers come to their own conclusions. It fails to let its images stand on their own, always worried people might not pay attention without its constant rambling. There are a few tender and dark themes about a parent’s love that, if Perfect had focused in with its cyberpunk razor and cut away at all the unnecessary fat, would have been satisfying and resonating. Unfortunately, it tries to be too much and ends up not being about much of any thing at all.