There are movies which are easy to watch, or rather, ones that the audience can receive without difficulty. Then there are more difficult watches, ones which require the audience to be an active viewer… or maybe even an active participant.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the new film directed by Eddie Alcazar, “Perfect” is a film of the latter sort. Starring Garrett Wareing, Courtney Eaton, Tao Okamoto, Maurice Compte, and Abbie Cornish, “Perfect” is a film about a teen (Wareing) going to some sort of clinic for some type of treatment following some kind of trauma (possibly committing a murder). And, if that seems like an obtuse way to describe a movie, it is, but that is because it feels like a description perfectly in keeping with the film itself.
With a screenplay by Ted Kupper and a story by Kupper and Alcazar, “Perfect” is a perplexing, difficult to access piece. At least, it’s difficult to access in its entirety. It is clear that Wareing’s character is undergoing some sort of mind/body alteration following an incident at his home. What exactly that treatment is though is anyone’s guess. Watching the film won’t even necessarily sell the audience that Alcazar is aware of the specifics of the treatment. The goal though is easy – it is to make the teen more perfect, and that is a concept on which Alcazar seems unsold. After all, what is perfection anyway?
The narrative, such as it is, is almost an afterthought to the visuals, the sound, and the mood of the piece. Nearly the entire movie exists in a dream-like state. There are visions of beauty and of horror and of things most definitely in between the two. It is an astounding film to watch, one which demands that the viewer pays close attention, both to discern whatever is possible of the story and to see what sort of images will appear next. Will they repulse? Will they attract? Will they do some of both? “Perfect” keeps one watching based on them alone (although the intriguing score from Flying Lotus, who also executive produces the film, is nothing to sniff at).
And yet, even if the narrative is of secondary concern, there is something not quite right with what is there; something that goes beyond what is told and gets at the underlying questions being asked. If, as surmised above, Alcazar is against the notion of perfection, is he then coming down on the side of what looks distinctly like murder? After all, Wareing’s character is there to, hopefully, stave off any future losses of control that lead to murder. It is less established that in his case the clinic is attempting to do anything beyond preventing death to innocents.
Perhaps, one might argue, Alcazar is simply against pre-packaged existence and changing ourselves to suit some sort of acceptable mass produced life. While this might be a laudable notion, the question of the murder still has to be dealt with and it is not. It is simply shunted aside.
Movies are an artistic endeavor, and, like it or loathe it or simply confused by it, Alcazar’s “Perfect” leans heavily into the art house ethos (for lack of a better term) of movies more than most. It is a wonderful film to look at and to listen to and to think about… right up until one confronts the idea of this murder and the film’s position on it.
If nothing else, “Perfect” will keep one thinking, and guessing, for a long time. It has aspects that are reminiscent of many other movies ranging from “Ex Machina” to “Videodrome” to “Tron.” It definitely makes the viewer uneasy, and that is almost certainly the point.
photo credit: Breaker.io