Spoilers for “The Perfect Date” below.
The Perfect Date is yet another attempt by Netflix to conquer the genre of romantic comedies. The movie stars Netflix’s “golden boy” himself, Noah Centineo, alongside teen favorites, “Riverdale’s” Camila Mendes and Laura Marano –– a former Disney star who rose to fame in the hit series, “Austin and Ally.”
The story begins by documenting the toils and troubles of a high school senior, Brooks Rattigan (Noah Centineo), while he navigates the college application process, after school jobs and bullies –– in the loosest sense of the word. Brooks works at a sub shop, trying to make money to afford the college of his dreams, Yale University. One day, one of the most popular boys in school, Reece (Zak Steiner), shows up to the sandwich shop with his blue BMW i8, which catches the eye of an envious Brooks. In order to make some money and for a chance to drive the BMW, Brooks agrees to take Reece’s cousin, Celia Leiberman (Laura Marano), to a dance at her prep school.
The first striking aspect of this film is how beautiful Celia is, but there is an inexplicable need for her parents to pay someone to take her to a dance. What makes this fact further far-fetched is that their first choice was her cousin, Reece. Upon arrival, Brooks is met with an apathetic Celia who, much like the audience, does not see the point of such an ill-advised strategy on behalf of her parents. After the success of his date with Celia, Brooks realizes his panache for molding his personality in order to please any girl and decides to make an app just for that.
Employing the help of his tech savvy friend Murphy (Odiseas Georgiadis), Brooks creates an app for girls to customize their perfect date to earn money to go to Yale University. The app takes off, and he goes to art gallery openings, costume parties or simply just listens to girls talk for four consecutive hours. Brooks later comes across Celia on the app after she orders “his services,” and he subsequently takes her to a party at the house of the most popular girl at Celia’s prep school, Shelby Pace (Camila Mendes). Incidentally, Brooks has a crush on Shelby because she embodies everything he aspires to be: rich, respected and ambitious. Celia and Brooks help each other get together with their crushes during the party. As a thank you, Celia arranges for Brooks to be interviewed by Yale’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions. Brooks passes the interview with flying colors, so much so that the dean tells him to send his application directly to him and not his secretary (the fallacious nature of this request is astounding).
Later, Celia realizes Franklin, the object of her desires, is not as interesting and compatible with her as Brooks was. Brooks similarly sees that Shelby is too ambitious for him and not as spontaneous. She has her life planned out as an incoming Columbia University student and plans to intern at her father’s hedge fund and then go on to have her own equity firm. Later, Brooks and Celia go to yet another dance at Shelby and Celia’s prep school, where Shelby finds out about Brooks’ side business and leaves him. Without even letting ten seconds pass to recover from the breakup with the girl he has had a crush on since the movie started, Brooks pivots towards Celia and asks her to dance with him, to which she curtly replies that she is not his backup.
The end of the movie is as predictable as the rest of it; Brooks realizes how much he loves Celia and writes a heartfelt letter to her in the shape of a college essay. She agrees and they both live happily ever after.
This film has every cliché romantic comedy trope one can imagine: hot guy who is down on his luck trying to figure his life out, girl who is not liked by anyone, hot popular girl who the boy initially likes, a tortured genius who the main girl has a crush on but realizes he is nothing compared to the guy, the climatic realization of romantic stupidity by the boy and girl, the ultimate over-the-top gesture to appease the girl and eventually they live happily ever after. My criticism is not of romantic comedies. I adore the ability of romantic comedies to show us how to value the more abstract things in life. However, I do not condone senseless, capitalistic ventures to squeeze money out of audiences for a mediocre work of entertainment.
This film is nothing compared to classic 90’s rom-coms such as “You’ve Got Mail,” or even to “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” the original Netflix romcom/ Noah Centineo film. It is not subtle in its plot clichés and not factual in its approach to the college admissions process or basic programming in computer science (Murphy uses code he has lying around to build an app for Brooks in less than an hour). Throughout the entire movie Brooks is trying to raise money for Yale — according to their website it is $72,000 per year — and its shown that he is more than two-thirds of the way there, just by running a highly unethical business venture of escorting girls. Just by doing the math, it is apparent that this is one of the most unrealistic things presented in the movie. What this film asks the audience to believe is that Brooks has raised $48,000 in less than a month by running his “chaperone service.” This film is a blatant ploy to use Noah Centineo as the typecast he has become of the ideal boyfriend in teen romantic comedies. The writers’ disregard how the admissions process works just to mold the plot around how Brooks grows from a petulant teenager to a sensible teenager and appeal to his desirability to audiences. That is what the purpose of the movie seems to be: Noah Centineo can be anyone he wants and stare longingly at girls anytime he sees them.
There are two things that make this movie redeemable: the fact that this is not “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” and Laura Marano. Her character is a refreshing break from the usual passive and unnerving rom-com female leads. She knows what she wants and is not afraid to express her discontent with Brooks’ actions. She represents what girls are actually like. But even she could not transform this film into anything more than mediocre. The film falls in line with the new teen flicks Netflix has produced. It is nothing revolutionary or even particularly enjoyable. The biggest query this film has left the audience with is: Will Noah Centineo ever break free of the type cast of the love-struck teenager losing his way until he meets the girl of his dreams or will it be an ongoing and sadistic cycle of shallow characters?