Noah Centineo has reprised his role as romantic lead once again, this time in “The Perfect Date,” another Netflix-released teen romantic comedy. While critics speculated that Netflix may be ushering in a new era for the romantic comedy genre with the wildly popular “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Set it Up,” a positively received rom-com for older audiences, “The Perfect Date” falls drastically below the standard both films set. The movie certainly cements Centineo’s status as a teenage heartthrob, this time starring as Brooks Rattigan, a high school senior yearning for the best things in life: the Ivy Leagues, the newest cars and a popular girlfriend. The feel-good plot and Centineo’s star appeal meant that the movie had the potential to be entertaining at the very least, but the heavily predictable storyline full of poorly thrown together tropes, unspectacular acting and irritating characters rendered it inconsistent and frustrating.
Centineo has previously played variations of the same sweet boyfriend, his first lead role as Brooks is the first to come close to being unlikable. To his credit, Centineo’s puppy-dog eyes and goofy smile have proven too endearing to be cast in anything but the (eventually redeemed) rom-com protagonist, but many of Brooks’ lines are self-centered, materialistic and bratty. Brooks is not content with his life; he wants a new, fancy car, to go to Yale over public college and for his washed-up father to pull himself together so they can have enough money for Brooks to pursue his goals. His father doesn’t approve and insists that he take up the full ride a public college offers instead. Naturally, the hero decides to take matters into his own hands and asks his best friend, Murph, to build him an app for rich girls in desperate need of dates — Brooks will be the perfect date, whether that means going to a rodeo, listening to a girl vent for hours or competing in a tennis tournament. There’s a lot of dissonance between Centineo’s relaxed, charming performance and the intense writing (he repeats how nothing is good enough for him unless it’s the best name brand throughout the film). Maybe the writers decided on this characterization to add depth, but the movie is too cut-and-dry to really develop Brooks as a three-dimensional character. At one point, Brooks’s absent mother is blamed for his misguided worldview, but that aspect isn’t developed at all besides a couple of passing mentions. Brooks’ contrived characterization ends up feeling like a stain on Centineo’s otherwise wholesome performance record.
Besides Brooks’ distinct characterization, there is nothing new about the plot. The flawed protagonist meets a girl, the snarky Celia, who changes him for the better. As it goes with this particular rom-com trope, Brooks doesn’t realize that Celia is what he wants or needs until the latter part of the film. While Centineo worked some of his charm into his unpleasant character, Celia’s unfailing contempt for everyone around her makes her character irritating. She fills the trope of the “quirky” love interest, but the trope is so poorly put together and the chemistry between the two leads is so lacking that the finale is disappointing.
The film follows such a formulaic structure that the plot is completely predictable. However, the predictability is not what makes the movie so frustrating to watch — instead, it’s the inconsistencies and lazy writing that go along with it. The movie is so dead-set on moving through the motions of a rom-com — cute meeting, falling out, redemption — that it sets aside realism and character development. Murph and Celia eventually decide to cut Brooks out of their lives, but their reasons for doing so are less than believable. The montages and dance scenes that are all too common in teen rom-coms are fun at first, but after the third dance scene, it starts becoming a running gag among characters and an annoyance for the viewer.
It’s unfortunate that the movie skimped out more scenes with Murph, the one likable character. The film focused on the mediocre love story between the two leads instead of progressing the interesting, cute storyline of the snappy sidekick. Murph’s sexual orientation also wasn’t paraded as a signifier of how diverse the casting was; instead, Murph’s identity was taken as a simple fact of life. His unique storyline, coupled with the decent acting from Odiseas Georgiadis, could have revived an otherwise dull movie.
Verdict: “The Perfect Date” had the potential to be a feel-good teen romantic comedy, but it falls victim to the genre’s endless tropes and predictable plot line. While the supporting cast is entertaining, the unremarkable performances and weak writing make for a thoroughly unsatisfying watch.