Netflix is kicking off its season of rom-coms with The Perfect Date, which has all the ingredients to live up to its title. It stars internet boyfriend Noah Centineo, Laura Marano, and Riverdale's Camila Mendes. Centineo plays Brooks Rattigan, an ambitious high school senior who begins a dating service to make money to afford the tuition for his dream school Yale. Marano plays Celia, the first date that inspires his entrepreneurial adventure, while Mendes is Shelby, the girl he aspires to get when he finally achieves his dream life.
Considering Centineo skyrocketed to mainstream hottie status thanks to his role in To All the Boys I've Loved Before (and to a lesser extent Sierra Burgess Is a Loser), it's nearly impossible not to compare Brooks to To All the Boys' beloved Peter Kravinsky. It doesn't help that Centineo is rocking the same quaffed hairdo that made Peter K. such a stud. However, Brooks is absolutely no Peter. While Peter made some poor judgement calls, he was overall a great guy, and while Sierra had a much more lackluster embrace as a whole, Centineo's Jamie was virtually perfect — which is exactly what you want from a rom-com lead.
Brooks, on the other hand, has some room for improvement. He has goals, and that's great, but he's also pretentious. It's one thing to want to get into Yale, but about 30 minutes into the film he drops the line, "I've worked too hard for three and a half years to go to a public college," while snubbing his nose at the University of Connecticut. For Brooks' information, UConn is a top-rated school, along with other fine public universities like UNC Chapel Hill, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Penn State to name a few.
We're told through exposition that Brooks' obsession with money and status is due to his mother leaving him and his father for a richer new family, but we never see Brooks reconcile with that directly. He acts as if he's oppressed by his circumstances, but there's no real evidence of Brooks' being hard-up except for the fact he drives a used Saturn for a car. Otherwise, he's a straight-A student, ridiculously hot, and surrounded by caring friends and family. The degree to which he craps all over his pretty great life doesn't really make sense.
Brooks' arc is to realize there's value in being himself and not to put so much stock in material possessions, and even though he gets there in the end, the movie fails to show how he got there so you have to wonder if Brooks actually grew or if he's just telling the audience what we want to hear like he did on all of his fake dates before figuring out who he really wanted to be with.
Part of the reason Brooks doesn't really have the room to grow is because the film itself is a bit confused about what it wants to be. At times it's a teenage version of Debra Messing's The Wedding Date and then at others it's 10 Things I Hate About You with a pinch of Blank Check. Brooks' secret pain isn't the only rom-com trope in the film either. You've also got the tough girl who feels above all of the social politics of high school versus the popular pretty girl you want to believe is deeper than she appears. Let's not forget the comic relief best friend who starts to feel neglected once Brooks becomes successful. It's not that tropes are bad, they're actually what make rom-coms lighthearted fun. The problem with Perfect Date is that it has so many they compete for time to actually play out and no one really gets the development that they need.
This is not to say that Perfect Date is absent of fun. Centineo gets to let his goofy side out during the different dates. He has a natural comedic charm that comes out as he tried out different hats while impersonating different types of guys on his fake dates. Marano is also delightful as the whip-smart Celia. Their banter-heavy dates are the most heartwarming parts of the movie. Odiseas Georgiadis is also a great counterweight to Centineo as Brooks' best friend Murph — he just doesn't get the screen time he needs to justify his intense reaction to Brooks' burgeoning social life.
All in all, The Perfect Date is an OK teen rom-com. It's sweet enough to give your tummy butterflies, but not smooth enough to make you fall in love.
The Perfect Date is now streaming on Netflix.