Released: 12th April
Seen: 6th May
Yesterday I talked about a little Netflix teen comedy called The Last Summer that, while watchable, lacked a real cohesive plotline and likable characters despite the actual charm of the lead cast. It cannot be understated just how important those two things are in a teen rom-com, they basically are what will give the movie an audience that goes beyond the specific demographic that will watch every single one of those movies. So what would happen if we take a similar cast from The Last Summer, including a different Riverdale alum, but make all the characters charming and likable while also allowing them to interact through a cohesive plot that doesn’t make me want to rip my eyeballs out with tweezers? Well, that’s when you get The Perfect Date.
The Perfect Date follows Brooks Rattigan (Noah Centineo) as he tries to work his way to Yale. Determined to break free of the societal barriers that have kept him stuck on the poorer side of town, Brooks ends up taking out the wealthy and snarky Celia Lieberman (Laura Marano) in exchange for a payment by her father who was desperate to get her to go to her formal. Struck by inspiration, Brooks asks his best friend Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis) to help him create an app that he can use to book ‘dates’ with people to earn his tuition money. The dates are never anything serious; chaperoning to dances or art openings but along the way, Brooks must not only deal with how his dogged determination to get into Yale is affecting him but how it’s affecting his relationships with those around him.
The plot itself is absurdly simple, to the point where you can basically call the ending right from the start. I didn’t even bring up the plot about how Brooks wants to impress the other rich girl, Shelby Pace (Camila Mendes) because that’s a detail that appears in a lot of these movies and it ends in the exact way you think it’s going to end. It’s predictable, but that means that the movie needs to rely on the cast and the details in order to make it good and luckily they have stuffed so much charm into this movie that it makes the plot go from predictable to anticipatory. I spent the last half hour making tiny happy sounds hoping things were going to turn out the way that they were basically destined to work out because I liked the characters that much.
The quick quippy banter that fills the film from start to finish is a delight, there are some very fun little details that make everything just glide by so easily. It feels real, the back and forth between characters feels natural and the actors deliver each line with gusto. Every snarky putdown, every humorous semi-compliment, every line just fits and there wasn’t any point that it felt forced. Even a random conversation about beekeeping feels like it belongs, and when you can make that topic fit into a conversation and make it genuine then you’ve done something impressive.
What makes this dialogue work so well is the acting, in particular, the lead. Noah Centineo is such a charming lead that I was gleeful watching him go from date to date, taking on random personas for each one and slowly grows as a character. Heck, he was so likable that I’m now actually into the idea of him playing He-Man, which is one of the big upcoming roles that he’s been announced for. Sure, it’s going to be interesting to see how that pans out but at least I now have a feeling he’ll make that character charming since he proved to have so much of it here. He manages to somehow keep our attention even while Laura Marano is there just stealing every single scene that she turns up in. I have a bit of a soft spot for a snarky asshole with a heart of gold and she plays that so perfectly. She can really deliver a quick cutting barb so beautifully, but then drop that the second she needs to show some genuine vulnerability. You couldn’t ask for a better pair of leads for this kind of a movie.
The Perfect Date is exactly what you would hope to see when you want to watch a teen rom-com. It fulfils all the requirements but throws in enough details to make it joyful to watch. A great script, great performances and a simple but effective visual style help create a film that is a good watch. This is the formula done right, even if repetition means that it might be predictable at least it’s good. Sometimes you just need a really good version of the same thing you’ve seen a fair few times before.