Netflix has become the go-to destination for teen rom-coms. The Perfect Date looks to follow in the path of last year’s charming and funny lineup. Bring your rom-com Bingo cards out as few cliches go ignored, but the film is enjoyable enough even if it’s far from perfection.
Brooks Rattigan (Noah Centineo, To All the Boys I’ve Loved) is focused. He’s a hard-working, excellent student driven to get accepted to Yale.
Like Brooks, screenwriters Steve Bloom and Randall Green haven’t given much thought to his plans upon getting accepted to Yale. Granted, most teen rom-coms aren’t so much preoccupied with the post-graduation exploits as they are the slo-mo kissing happy ending, but it comes off odd here.
Brooks is fairly aimless for someone aspiring to Yale. We’re not given much insight on what he wants to do, his interests and how that fancy Yale degree is going to help him in life. Of course with the current college admissions scandal, clearly Brooks isn’t the only one who thinks getting accepted into an Ivy League school is the life golden ticket so why quibble?
Brooks’ father, Charlie (Matt Walsh, The Hangover) is pushing for the state school where some of the costs are already covered. But Brooks needs that Yale acceptance letter and his loser father can’t hold him back. Charlie might be on an extended depression after his wife left them, but he’s the kind of good, underappreciated father we see a lot of in these teen comedies.
Desperate to make some cash, Brooks volunteers to take an associate’s cousin, Celia (Leah Marano), to a school dance. Brooks is a serious overachiever so he takes all the steps to ensure Celia has a good time. While amazed at his professionalism, the hard-edged Celia quickly comes to appreciate Brooks’ cheery demeanor. Brooks finds himself smitten with Shelby (Camila Mendes, Riverdale), one of Celia’s classmates.
It’s impressive how quickly Bloom and Green tip their hand. Celia and Brooks have an obvious chemistry to the point that everything else seems frivolous. This is really even before they get going with the film’s premise.
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Now inspired, Brooks has his tech friend, Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis), set up an app where Brooks can be a custom made perfect date. Need a partner for a rodeo? Brooks is your guy. Going to an 80s party? Book an appointment with Brooks.
Director Chris Nelson doesn’t seem that interested in what could have been the film’s most obvious source of comedy. Watching Brooks on various dates plays out more like an obligation wrapped up in tidy montages. We all know how this is going to play out, but it’s odd that the whole idea of the film is more window dressing for a standard rom-com.
At least Nelson’s instincts aren’t wrong when the focus is on Centineo and Marano. Celia is written like a guy’s version of a teen feminist who just needs to find the right guy to be happy. Sure Celia says the right things and has a feminist slant, but deep down Bloom and Green aren’t sure how to portray her. Fortunately, Marano is a flexible performer able to maneuver through the script inconsistencies with ease.
Centineo continues to channel a young Mark Ruffalo in his rom-com days. Even if Centineo never reaches A-list, Academy Award nominee status, he’ll never be struggling to find gigs between Netflix, Hallmark and Lifetime. He’s got an immensely likable presence even when Brooks is making frustrating decisions.
I’m keeping with these teen Netflix original the lone minority character with a supporting role is also gay. Too often the persons of color with names and speaking roles have to be gay now as if there’s some representation quota checklist. Yes there are POCs who are part of the LGBT community, but it feels cheap and disingenuous to the point it’s cliche.
The Perfect Date is perfectly fine for younger fans of the genre or those who don’t care if they’re able to correctly predict everything that will happen within 10 minutes. The cast is charming enough to enjoy despite its lack of genuine surprises.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix