When you sit down to Netflix and chill, there are lots of movies and TV shows to pick from, from Netflix Originals to classic hits that everyone loves to binge-watch. But sometimes you just feel like trying a light-hearted rom-com, like “The Perfect Date,” a movie that recently premiered on Netflix.
Based on the 2017 novel, “The Stand-In” by Steve Bloom, “The Perfect Date” follows high school senior Brooks Rattigan (Noah Centineo), who has aspirations to attend Yale after graduation.
“Dear Office of Admissions, my name is Brooks Rattigan, but I don’t just want you to know that. I want the world to know that, because I want to change the world,” narrates Brooks, as he sits in his bedroom typing his essay for Yale.
Brooks has the grades to get into an Ivy League school, sure, but that’s about it. His school counselor, after listening to his essay, tells him to stand out from the scores of other students with equally impressive grades by first figuring out one question: “Who is Brooks Rattigan?”
It’s easy to see the type of person Brooks is. His idols are world changers like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk; he does well academically and is ambitious. But Brooks wants more out of his life, something more glamorous. A scene shows Brooks looking longingly at a sleek electric BMW i8 in the school parking lot before he hops in his own faded-burgundy Saturn. The shot then switches to Brooks’ nondescript house, which he shares with his dad (Matt Walsh).
Brooks’ luck soon changes, however, when he develops an app called “The Stand-In,” where he acts as the perfect date for his female clients. The app becomes a success, which is shown through a montage of Brooks wearing ridiculous outfits to suit the preference of each of his dates, to the fitting music of “The Man” by The Killers.
The storyline for “The Perfect Date” is simple to follow and moves at a quick pace for its 90-minute duration. Brooks rides the success of his app and encounters inevitable problems along the way, including developing feelings for one of his dates. It isn’t the predictable plot, however, that makes “The Perfect Date” far from perfect. It’s Brooks himself.
You’re meant to sympathize with Brooks’ poor upbringing and his fractured family life, but Brooks manages to come across as self-absorbed and superficial from the beginning. It’s hard to relate to his dream of attending Yale, especially when he dismisses a public college for lacking prestige. Even rich girl Shelby Pace (played by “Riverdale” actress Camila Mendes), who’s practically a non-entity in the story, manages to be more likable than Brooks at times.
Director Chris Nelson attempts to give Brooks’ best friend Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis) something that resembles a storyline of his own, but it never becomes fully realized. Instead, the film gives Murph only a morsel of screen time that just doesn’t come together in a satisfactory way by the time the credits roll.
Centineo, who’s starred in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser,” may have a cute face, but that doesn’t distract from the ironic fact that he and a few other cast members are college-age actors playing high schoolers. There are a few bright points in “The Perfect Date,” however.
A surprisingly tender scene occurs between Brooks and one of his dates, which provides some personal reflection for the main character as he grapples with his lies and figuring out what exactly he wants. Also, the over-the-top personalities that Brooks uses for his dates are hilarious.
Laura Marano plays a convincing Celia Lieberman. In one scene, Celia wears boots and a leather jacket to accompany a dress, and you quickly realize Celia isn’t your average rich girl, and she wants you to know it. “Oh, that’s cute, but I can open my own doors,” she tells Brooks when he attempts to be chivalrous.
Celia spouts witty — and oftentimes, snarky — comebacks at everyone, including her own parents. I found myself admiring Celia and her perseverance to remain true to herself.
“Why is it that high school is the time of your life that you’re expected to be good at everything? I just wanna be whatever I am. And I’m proud of that,” she says.
Actor Matt Walsh manages to bring likability to his role as Brooks’ father despite the small amount of screen time allotted to him. You feel for his character, who tries to connect with his only son after experiencing his own hardships.
I also appreciate how “The Perfect Date” doesn’t vilify the rich. You see the extent of one character’s wealth by the way she dresses and the modern architecture of her home, but no one is portrayed as a downright stereotype, except maybe one minor character who is more a parody than anything else.
“The Perfect Date” has moments of depth, but it’s not enough to make you root for Brooks and his shallow dream. The good news, however, is that the film barely reaches 90 minutes, so it’s a low commitment on your end, and if you’re a huge fan of Centineo, then “The Perfect Date” is definitely worth a shot. If not, “The Perfect Date” probably isn’t the match for you.