Just last year, Noah Centineo stole our hearts and became the romantic comedy leading man we didn’t know we needed in To All The Boys I Loved Before. He was the emotional but steady Peter, and it’s hard to not associate that movie with his easy-on-the-eyes appearance.
But Centineo has continued to move within the realm of rom-coms while stepping into the protagonist position. His latest venture is Netflix’s The Perfect Date, a 90-minute teenage romance film that falls short of Netflix’s recent progress in the rom-com department.
The film follows Brooks Rattigan (Centineo), a high school senior looking for a way to raise money for college. When he gets paid do go on a date with Celia Lieberman (Laura Marano), his friend Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis) creates a Grub Hub-like app that allows Brooks to go on many women’s perfect dates.
The premise alone has potential. It’s contemporary and lives out teenage fantasies. We’ve all probably thought about bribing someone to go on a date with us to go to the school dance, make our parents mad or even to go to a rodeo. We all want company, no matter how much we have to pay for it. But the choppy plot and the existence of an unnecessary other girl, Shelby Pace (Camila Mendes), takes that interesting premise and turns it into a fragmented and pointless plot.
Now, the romantic comedy genre has a history of not making a whole lot of sense, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bogged down by disposable plot points. The existence of the app and the dates Brooks goes on is wrapped up in a simple montage, seemingly a staple of the movie genre. Brooks makes no effort to mend the relationships with his friends, and he even pushes away the girl he is obviously going to end up with. It leaves viewers wondering how they go to that point in the film.
The whole film is formulaic. Everything is set up for the audience from the get-go. The usual cheesy but witty banter romantic comedies are known for is swapped out for uncharming, lackluster dialogue that doesn’t add anything to the film. There are no quick one-liners, no quotable confessions of love — nothing that makes rom-coms so enjoyable. And for a film that relies heavily on tropes, to not include even one remarkable line is a fatal mistake.
Centineo on the other hand gives a strong performance. It’s always interesting to see men in the rom-com lead roles, which are often given to women. In a movie geared toward teenagers, it’s essential to show them it’s OK to have emotions and not know what you want to do in life. Possibly the best moment is when Brooks shares with his dad, who is struggling to make gains in his career. That attunes viewers to the fact not even grownups know what they’re doing, but they chug along anyway. When Centineo tackles a more adult role in a romantic comedy, he will be able to refine the chops he has and bring them to a mature audience.
The Perfect Date wastes it’s potential on gimmicky romantic comedy tropes that have become tired in the age of conscious romance films. Films like The Big Sick and Netflix’s own Set It Up challenge the genre’s norms and catapult it into contemporary society where women are being shown as powerful and unneeding of a man. The Perfect Date doesn't undo that progress, but it does not implement any of the newage awareness other romantic comedies employ.