“Yikes. It looks like he’s kissing his sister.”
And so ended my viewing of the Netflix original, “The Perfect Date,” starring Noah Centineo. The film itself is OK, but it’s nothing to write home about. I saw the film, and I’m content never seeing it again. The film itself isn’t bad, but it doesn’t quite work as a romantic comedy, at least not for me. Maybe it’s the fact that the female lead, Laura Marano, reminds me of a young Carrie Fisher, and she has as much chemistry with Centineo as Fisher did with Mark Hamill. It could just be the fact the screenwriters didn’t really nail the “romantic” part of the film.
Centineo plays Brooks Rattigan, a high school kid deadset on going to Yale. His dad, a UConn adjunct professor (Matt Walsh), can’t afford the Ivy League school, and his mom isn’t really in the picture. When Brooks goes on a date for cash, he realizes he might have a lucrative business venture ahead of him. With assistance from his best friend and coding wizard, Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis), Brooks creates an app called “The Stand-In,” which allows users to rent him, for a fee, to be their date.
I know what you’re thinking. Basically, he’s a gigolo — a point that’s made more than once in the film — but there’s no funny business in Brooks’ repertoire. Instead, he’s whoever the girl wants him to be. The lineup includes an art lover, rodeo cowboy, douchebag, ‘80s nostalgia fanatic, etc.
He develops a friendship with Celia (Marano), the girl who started it all. And he develops a major crush on Shelby (Camila Mendes), the girl who’s got beauty, brains and all the money in the world thanks to her daddy’s hedge fund.
The film’s a romantic comedy, so it’s got a pretty predictable line of thought here. Obviously, Brooks and Celia are meant to be together. It’s a precedent set by all young adult (YA) rom-coms that came before. There’s only one problem here.
It doesn’t work.
For you “Star Wars” fans, remember how you felt when you found out Luke and Leia were brother and sister, and they’d kissed each other? This is like that, but not that epic.
Brooks and Celia are friends, and the two actors have zero romantic chemistry. As BFFs, though? They’re solid. The storyline is made worse by the fact that while you know the two are going to end up together, you’re hoping they won’t. The writers failed miserably at setting up any kind of connection between the two, and what’s worse is Brooks only goes for Celia AFTER Shelby’s told him to hit the road.
A good relationship is not built on being someone’s second choice!
This is Centineo’s third foray into YA rom-com territory after 2018’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Sierra Burgess is a Loser.” The former is fabulous. It was cute, quirky and I loved it, much to my chagrin. I haven’t seen “Sierra,” but I’m not sure I want to. The film stars Shannon Purser of “Stranger Things” fame, who keeps getting cast as the dumpy, frumpy, unpopular girl. It’s a little annoying.
But, back to Centineo. He’s precious. Watching him go through the various dates is fun. He’s fun. He’s charming and charismatic. He also isn’t hard to look at and has a presence that makes you believe he would give you a tissue if you’re sad or tell a lame joke to make you smile. He’s the ultimate rom-com male lead. With Lana Condor, his leading lady in “All the Boys,” the two created the perfect YA romance. They bantered, they laughed and ultimately they loved.
He has two of those things with Marano. Seriously, they’re BFF goals. Chemistry-wise, they’re a bit like too rocks sitting side by side. Part of this is on Marano. The only person in the film who was actually given material to work with was Centineo. Marano’s main task in the film is to roll her eyes. A lot. Instead of actually having a character (or presence of her own), she’s simply there to play off Centineo. This is the standard for pretty much everyone in the movie, from Brooks’ dad to his crush, Shelby.
“The Perfect Date” is based on a not-overly-popular book by Steve Bloom. I don’t need to read it. The movie was more than enough. Maybe it’s the fact that Brooks is pretty sleazy. He really is a gigolo, and he really doesn’t seem to like Celia until she’s his best option. He’s rude to his dad, and he blows his best friend off. While Centineo might be precious, Brooks is kind of a dirtbag but in that he-doesn’t-mean-to-be way.
If you need a schmaltzy young love story, check out Centineo’s first Netflix original, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” If you want to relive a Luke and Leia moment, this one’s a winner.