(Warning: The following article contains minor plot spoilers for the Netflix thriller "The Perfection." You'll see another warning before discussion of the film's last act.)
In order to portray a pair of musical prodigies for Richard Shepard's psychological thriller "The Perfection," stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning had to learn to convincingly play the cello in a little over two months.
"At the time, I was shooting five days a week on ('A Series of Unfortunate Events'), so it was lots of early morning cello," said Williams. "I felt so bad for my neighbors. When I moved out of the apartment, I almost wanted to give them baskets or something, like, 'I'm so sorry for all of the 2 a.m. cello you had to listen to.' "
In the film, which is streaming on Netflix, Williams plays Charlotte, a virtuoso with a tortured past. Upon meeting Lizzie (Browning), the new star pupil at her former school, the two barrel together down a demented path that is as sinister as it is unexpected.
Though Williams and Browning hadn't met prior to production, the two quickly bonded over the shared instrument. "We immediately developed such an easy rapport having the cello in common and trying to learn in a very meta way," said Williams. "It was a very uniting thing because it was so hard."
On top of that, the actresses were tasked with learning songs that were deliberately written to be difficult. "Richard didn't want them to be songs that anyone would recognize," said Williams. "(So) it didn't sound as beautiful as when decades-long cellists play those songs, but we could play them."
After having worked with Williams on HBO's "Girls," the director (who co-wrote the script with Nicole Snyder and Eric C. Charmelo) wrote Charlotte with her in mind and sent over the script while she was in the middle of shooting the last season of Netflix's "Unfortunate Events."
"He's like, 'I'm having an insane script delivered to you. It's crazy. Call me as soon as you finish it,' " she recalled. "I was like, 'Oh, boy, I can't wait.' The script read so well that I read it in one sitting, I could not put it down."
"It was a literal page turner," agreed Browning, who also stars in the Netflix series "Dear White People" and was cast in "The Perfection" after an extensive search. "There are moments early on in the script where, when I read them, I didn't understand how the movie could continue."
The stars and director are careful to keep several key twists and plot points under wraps. "It's weird to promote a movie in which you really can't talk about like half of the movie without spoiling it," said Shepard. "It's really tough. I think a lot of the joy of the movie is not knowing what's going to happen."