The Movie Waffler Tribeca Film Festival 2021 Review - THE PERFECT DAVID | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca Film Festival 2021 Review - THE PERFECT DAVID

the perfect david review
Under the control of his domineering mother, a teenage bodybuilder prepares for a show.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Felipe Gómez Aparicio

Starring: Umbra Colombo, Mauricio di Yorio, Antonella Ferrari, Diego Starosta, José Luis Sain

the perfect david poster

Much like tattooing, bodybuilding is something that was once the sole province of sailors and convicts, but which has exploded into the mainstream in recent decades, a hobby now enjoyed by men and women from all walks of life.

In movies however, bodybuilding is still joined at the hip to a certain male stereotype, the 'roided up dude-bros of Michael Bay's Pain & Gain or the recent British thriller Muscle. Traditionally in cinema, bodybuilding has been something practiced by men with a damaged psyche – see Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver and Sal Mineo in Who Killed Teddy Bear.

Building an enviable physique has rarely been portrayed as darkly as in Argentinean director Felipe Gómez Aparicio's The Perfect David, a character study of a troubled teen bodybuilder.

the perfect david review

High schooler David (Mauricio Di Yorio) has the body of a man twice his age, thanks to his obsessive fitness regime. This is all overseen by his creepily controlling mother, Juana (Umbra Colombo), who is currently preparing him for an upcoming show. Every day Juana checks her son's physical prowess, her hands resting on his bulging biceps and pecs a little longer than seems necessary.

It's unclear whether David actually enjoys this lifestyle or if he's simply indulging his mother's borderline incestuous fantasies. Perhaps he likes to spend time at the gym to indulge his own homosexual longings. David seems confused about his sexuality, masturbating to gay porn one night while indulging in a tryst with a female classmate (Antonella Ferrari) that ends in embarrassment when he fails to get aroused by her feminine touch the following night. At school he grows quiet when the other boys spark up homophobic discussions, asking ridiculous yet inventive questions like "Would you rather bang your mother's body with your father's head or vice versa?"

the perfect david review

Like his body, it seems as though David's sexuality is being moulded by others to fit an ideal. In a twist that seems inspired by Neil Labute, we realise the full horror of why David's mother is so obsessive about her son's physique.

Aparicio's film plays a lot like one of those sports dramas about an aging athlete coming to the end of their career and reckoning with their changing body. The difference here of course is that David is only starting out in the world of bodybuilding, yet it feels like he's already burnt out, drained psychologically if not exhausted physically.

the perfect david review

So heavily reliant is The Perfect David on its twist ending that it might have worked more efficiently as a short. It runs a brief 77 minutes, but much of that consists of endless shots of David working out and practicing posing for an invisible audience. Di Yorio certainly looks the part, but he's not exactly the most engaging screen presence, unlike Colombo, who has something of Joan Crawford about her and enlivens the film every time she pops up for a bit of suspect fondling of her boy's biceps.

The real stars might be cinematographer Adolpho Veloso, whose diffuse, smoky lighting recalls early Ridley Scott, and composer Ezequiel Flehner, whose propulsive score goes a long way to creating the unsettling mood his director is aiming for here.

The Perfect David played at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. A release has yet to be announced.

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