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October 28, 2021

The Perfect Date is charming, but predictable

By BINYAMIN NOVETSKY | April 18, 2019

Dominick D/cc by-sa 2.0 Camila Mendes plays rich girl Shelby in Netflix’s new high school rom-com, The Perfect Date.

To some extent all romantic comedies are the same. You might think that that’s a bad thing, but I’d argue in the genre’s defense. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with following a good formula. That being said, if you don’t like rom-coms, The Perfect Date isn’t for you. If you don’t like high school rom-coms, then you probably shouldn’t even bother reading this review. But if, like myself, you’re the type of person who’s seen To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before multiple times and would watch it again right now, then you also need to stop reading this review because you have to go watch The Perfect Date immediately.

To put it frankly, I loved this movie. The plot is certainly nothing unique; the formula of guy and girl who get into a fake relationship only to realize they have real feelings for each other isn’t exactly groundbreaking material. However, this movie isn’t trying to be groundbreaking. All it wants to do is make you laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously, and in that it succeeds wonderfully. The Perfect Date is genuinely hysterical. With the exception of looking absolutely nothing like high school seniors, Noah Centineo as Brooks Rattigan (yes, the guy from To All the Boys) and Laura Marano as Celia Lieberman are both excellent in their roles as the lead couple. They’re cute, they’re funny, and their chemistry is perfect. Nothing showcases this more than near the end of the movie when Brooks is trying to explain to Celia how he’s happier when he’s around her and the movie flashbacks to all the moments when they were together. The thing is, they’re not just random moments shoehorned in there that we never got to see and are expected to believe happened. They’re all scenes from earlier in the movie, and as you watch them go by, you realize that you actually buy this romance.

Again, there definitely aren’t many surprises in this movie. Brooks is a high school senior trying to figure out who he is so he can write a good college application to Yale (relatable? I think so). He starts a business pretending to be whoever girls want him to be and go on dates with them. It’s a heavy-handed metaphor if I’ve ever seen one, but if you’re watching this movie to see something entirely new, again you’re missing the point. There is also a constant issue of class distinction in the movie that functions surprisingly well. Brooks and his friends are poor; Celia and the people she goes to school with are rich and he wants to be like them. As the movie goes on, Brooks is repeatedly proven wrong about what he thinks of those rich kids. Few of them are as happy as he believes, and many have far worse parents than his loving father who he ignores constantly. Surprising? Absolutely not. It may not be original, but it feels real, and Brooks’ pain is definitely relatable.

Considering the simplicity and cliché nature of the plot, it’s no surprise that the main success of this movie lies in its characters. Beyond Celia and Brooks, we have Brooks’ gay best friend Murph who’s sexuality is refreshingly almost never a topic of conversation and is just accepted by all those around him as fact. There is also Celia’s somewhat ridiculous but loving parents, who steal the scenes they’re in, and Brooks’ father, a formerly successful writer whose wife left him and their son once the money from his writing dried up. All of these characters are genuine, and they’re a pleasure to watch on screen.

The dialogue of this movie deserves a shout-out of its own. Written by Steve Bloom and Randall Green (best known for his work on the popular show Billions), the script of this movie is just phenomenal. It’s quick and clever, and it pairs perfectly with the characters. Celia may be a somewhat stereotypical teenage girl who hates heels and being emotional and loves being sarcastic, but damnit, she’s funny. She brings out the same in Brooks, and the scenes with just the two of them are almost always brilliant and laugh-out-loud hilarious, filled with banter and good-hearted insults. Celia’s “half apology” to Brooks for her role in their less-than-successful fake date is a particularly great example of her cynicism matched with the comedic cuteness of their interactions. 

Overall I just loved this movie, but I understand that it won’t be the movie to change any minds about rom-coms. It’s the kind of movie that you know you’ll love or hate before you even hit “play” on Netflix. But I’m here to tell you that if you’re in the love camp, you won’t be disappointed. 

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