I tried to like this movie. I really, really did. I told myself that to expect perfection from a romantic comedy is absolutely unrealistic. And even though I’ve been less than impressed with Netflix’s past ventures into the genre, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” included, at least they had a point, something they wanted to say. Unfortunately, “The Perfect Date” has anything but a point. Underdeveloped and uninspired in every possible sense, “The Perfect Date” has nothing to say. Because of this, it is truly, truly terrible and completely devoid of anything resembling life.
The movie follows our protagonist Brooks Rattigan (you read that right, Brooks Rattigan), played by Noah Centineo (“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”). Brooks wants two things in life — one, to attend Yale, and two, to change the world. By some logic I still don’t fully understand, Brooks decides that developing an app with his best friend that connects him to local high school girls who are interested in renting his dating services for money — which, by the way, could only come across as some kind of male power fantasy — is his ticket into Yale.
His first client and eventual love interest is Celia, played by Laura Marano (“Austin and Ally”), who I must say is one of the more deplorable romantic comedy leads in recent memory. Celia prides herself on being “not like the other girls.” She even says at one point, “Just because I’m a little weird doesn’t make me less human. In fact, it makes me more human.” Somehow, the movie thinks that Celia’s “quirks,” such as being an awkward dancer and disliking high heels, equate to her having a personality. Not surprisingly, they don’t. Celia is boring, dull and empty of any substance, just like Brooks, precisely because she is made into a stereotype rather than an interesting, fully-formed human being.
As you may have guessed at this point, “The Perfect Date” is awful primarily because of its writing. Not only is the script desperately dependent on tired stereotypes and cliches, including the conveniently helpful gay best friend and the arbitrary makeover scene that once again reduces the character’s worth to their outward appearance, it chooses to incorporate several unnecessary plot points that are never elaborated upon fully. For instance, Brooks’s mother left his family when he was young to start another one with someone else. While this has the potential to be truly intriguing and to give insight into why Brooks is the way he is, it hardly seems to affect him at all. In fact, it’s mentioned once or twice and then never discussed again. While I could suggest that the filmmakers extend the movie’s somewhat short runtime of just under an hour and half to better develop Brooks’s backstory, I have to admit that I’m glad the movie ended sooner rather than later for my own sanity. Neither lead delivers a particularly stellar performance, but it’s hard to blame them considering the dialogue they were given, much of which is outright hysterical: “I’m a gay teenage pimp wearing a secondhand hoodie … my life as I envisioned it.”
All in all, “The Perfect Date” is a charmless, instantly forgettable addition to the romantic comedy canon. Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think back to another, far superior Netflix movie starring Noah Centineo — “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” While that movie isn’t perfect, it has substance. It has a soul. On the contrary, “The Perfect Date” is lifeless, with a script so bad it’s almost condescending. We know Netflix can do better; “To All the Boys” proves that. We must show Netflix that we deserve better. To do this, I highly recommend you skip “The Perfect Date,” both for your own sake and for the future of the romantic comedy.