“The Perfect Date” isn’t a perfect movie. It’s a middle-of-the-road teen romantic comedy that feels like a distillation of the Netflix formula for what a teenage girl might like.
The plot is contrived but likable. Noah Centineo stars as Brooks Rattigan, a high school senior who aspires to be accepted into Yale. He struggles with writing his application essay because he doesn’t know who he is. He’s poor, too. He drives a crappy car and works at a sandwich shop.
He agrees to take a rich kid’s cousin to a school dance, provided he can drive the car and get paid for his troubles. Celia (Laura Marano), is a sardonic cool girl. She wears boots instead of heels to the dance. She’d rather go to an independent coffee shop than the school dance.
Brooks is the perfect nice-guy though. He gets her to agree to go to the dance. The chemistry is obvious. Then, Brooks steps on her foot as he stares at Shelby. Shelby is rich and vain. The viewer can tell, as she’s taking a selfie in her first scene.
The dance goes so well that Brooks gets an idea. He enlists his coder friend to help him build an app. Brooks be the perfect date for any girl willing to pay. He’ll go anywhere. He’ll be anyone and do whatever they want from him, non-sexual of course. In a montage, he plays a cowboy, an astronaut, and many more roles.
If this sounds like a male escort service, you’re right on track. The movie makes this joke as often as it can.
The movie only gets more predictable from here. Brooks pines for Shelby, but continues to be friends with Celia. You can probably guess what girl he ends up with. Hint: she was right for him all along.
Centineo must be what will make this movie profitable for Netflix. He became a teen heartthrob and the internet’s collective boyfriend in the fall with “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” That movie is much better than this one.
The plot is contrived. The characters are formulaic. The ending is predictable. The experience is like eating a candy bar. You know what to expect. You are happy while you do it. But you feel empty by the end.
It’s doing exactly what it’s trying to do. It panders to teenaged girls and rom-com fans. It also creates some problems. Brooks learns who he wants to be by the end of the film and makes some character growth. Celia only learns that she wants to be with Brooks.
She’s still the sardonic cool girl that she is at the outset of the film. There’s nothing wrong with that. She doesn’t need a makeover or a personality change, as some movies may lead you to believe. This is looking at you “The Breakfast Club” and “Grease”, two great movies that seem to think a girl needs to change to be likable.
Should you watch it? Maybe, if you like teen romantic comedies peppered with sarcastic humor and a decent love story. Will you enjoy it? Probably. Will you forget about it an hour after watching? Definitely.