The Perfection

Call it the worst thing to happen to the cello since Yo-Yo Ma copped to playing over a recorded track at the Obama inauguration…

The Perfection yo-yos from one genre to another, psychological thriller, body horror, rape-and-revenge. Yet it succeeds in committing to none convincingly enough to merit more than a passing commendation due to its dialogue howlers and exposition vomited out two-thirds in (OK, maybe the emptying of stomach contents, metaphorically at least, means The Perfection actually sits squarely in the body horror camp, “camp” being the operative term).

Two music conservatory grads — cello virtuoso products of fictional Bachoff Music College, Massachusetts — meet in Shanghai at a star-studded student school audition…one of ’em’s career has been sidetracked (Charlotte, played by Allison Williams) thanks to being a PSW for her ailing mom, the other is a global touring superstar, Lizzie (Logan Browning). The two play a cello duet for the assembled, then fan-girl each other into a night on the town then into the sack.

The next day, Lizzie starts to develop stomach upset and headaches. Instead of convalescing in the hotel like a normal human, she urges Allison to go on a long-haul bus trip into rural China as “she only has two weeks off” before going back on tour. At the best of times, nobody would go on a long-haul bus trip, let alone when the Chinese equivalent of Montezuma’s revenge is coming to clear out the pipes…

Lizzie soon vomits maggots all over the bus window, then when allowed to disembark, shits all over the side of the road in full view of the commuters, this as Allison yells indiscriminately at everyone in English, instead of the one Chinese guy actually conversant in the language, “my friend needs a doctor!”

As the plot unspools, the director hits the reset button, and there’s a goofy video rewind showing what actually happened to Lizzie, which in the hands of a competent filmmaker, would’ve been realized in the form of subtle foreshadowing…but which here takes the form of an exposition dump, speaking of dumps.

The Perfection, despite some game performances, awesome set pieces, and fun globe-trotting, can’t come together. The disciplinarians of the fancy-pants school screams Suspiria, and given that Allison Williams plays essentially a variation on her Get Out role, you don’t have to be the Long Island Medium to see where this thing is going. Plus, what kind of music school would, at its own expense, host an elaborate and very costly global talent search that might as well have had Simon Cowell and Howard Stern judging it?

When an antagonist wails, “You cut off her hand for nothing,” it’s a master class in melodrama, which precedes a revenge denouement too cartoonish and laughable to match the serious allegations against the school.

The “famous” “Cello duet #3” was composed especially for the movie, and it’s a tonal misfire as well.

** (out of 5)

Saturday Night Fever

With its iconic suit and lapels that look like if they flapped hard enough they’d send a wearer skyward Saturday Night Fever comes with a lot of fashion baggage, that’s for sure.

However, what most people who haven’t seen it would not be aware of, this disco flick is more like Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting with corny ethnic strife gang violence and casual racism — there’s a helluva lot of carnage, fist-fighting, death.

Needless to say, this is a move that’s on the surface, a Bee Gees four-on-the-four platform booted dance-fest, and yet it’s dragged in all different directions and doesn’t really know what it wants to be.

At its centre, John Travolta as Tony Monera (and a brief appearance by Fran Drescher as his teen sister), a bridge-and-tunnel hardware store lunkhead. The reason for his existence is taming the dancefloor at 2001 Odyssey, a nondescript warehouse that looks more like a downmarket Hells Angels clubhouse.

He connects romantically with a college student, a more schooled dancer. Him and his moron buddies clown around atop the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge, and he realizes that despite having no ambition, smarts, or focus, he’s no longer the black sheep of the Monera clan as his brother’s left the priesthood.

A mystifying breakout hit that grossed 68X its budget, and even Pauline Kael gushed, “Nirvana is the dance; when the music stops, you return to being ordinary.”

However, the themes, at their core, resonate perhaps now more than ever: aspirational stardom (regardless of how relatively insignificant) to escape the hum-drum, pre-social media peacocking/preening, and misplaced youthful priorities/exuberance/drug taking.

*** (out of 5)