I would watch my dream boyfriend Noah Centineo in basically anything. Whether it’s his Instagram stories or putting To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on loop, his charm keeps me coming back for more. So, when I heard he was starring in Netflix’s latest rom-com, which starts streaming April 12, I cleared my calendar for The Perfect Date.
The premise of the film is that dashing and ambitious high-school senior Brooks Rattigan (Centineo) desperately wants to go to Yale University, but can’t afford the tuition (and he doesn’t have an Aunt Becky to help him out). To earn some fast cash, Brooks starts a business where high school girls can hire him for fake, yet perfect, dates. “Every date would be custom built,” he says in the film’s trailer. “They can pick my personality, my interest, whether I’m a listener or a talker.” Cue the montage of Brooks taking women to the rodeo, art gallery and an 80s-themed party.
It’s classic escapism, a genre Netflix has mastered. I mean, hello? A dreamy guy (hey, Peter Kavinsky) takes a girl on a fake date, but (SPOILER!) the pretend relationship turns into the real thing. It’s not really plausible, but for this girl, who is exhausted by trying to find “the one,” it’s a fun fantasy. As the credits rolled, though, I found myself wishing it had been more than that.
Usually, these cheesy movies are a little oasis where dating actually leads to a happy ending—and I’m not alone in feeling this way. Last year, Washington Post reporter Lisa Bonos described rom-coms as “safer and more predictable than swiping on Tinder and healthier than texting an ex.” The Perfect Date is full of opportunities to explore this dynamic, but since the story is told from Brooks’ perspective, we never really hear why the women who hire him decided to pay for a fake date.
I mean, I can guess. After over a decade of dating, let me tell you, it really is rough out there. There was the plumber who ghosted me on the day of our date. The guy who couldn’t even ask me how my day was, yet wanted to 50 Shades me. And my favourite, the mansplainer who felt inclined to tell me that my love of horoscopes was ridiculous, because they aren’t scientifically sound. *eyeroll*
Adding apps to the equation has made dating unbearable. Not only is it easier to send dick pics (shudder), there’s also the mindset that another date is just a swipe away. We now have a plethora of choice (there are over 12 million singles in Canada), which psychologists say can create a paradox where we keep swiping instead of settling down, because we think there is something better out there.
And yet, when watching The Perfect Date, I realized that I would totally would use an app like the one Brooks created—and not just to spend time with Noah C. Yes, the premise is meant to seem far-fetched, but I would love a night of guaranteed romance.
Clearly, the young women in the film feel the same way, though we never *actually* hear from them. In fact, out of the montage of Brooks’ dates, the viewer only “meets” two unnamed women—and they never talk. But what we do learn about them is intriguing. One woman hires Brooks to be a truly awful boyfriend to make her parents like her real boyfriend better. The other hires Brooks to help her practice dating, though we never hear more about why dating is so tough for her—which, frankly, would be a refreshing reality to see in a rom-com. Even Celia (Laura Marano), the OG teen whose parents pay Brooks to take her to the dance, and ultimately (shocker) falls for him too, has very little backstory. We know she hates heels, is a bit of an outcast and dances like Chandler Bing. But that’s it. I honestly remember very little about her, despite that by the end, she was my favourite part of the film.
The Perfect Date reminded me of The Wedding Date—but the 2005 classic film starring Debra Messing and her fake BF Dermot Mulroney actually tapped into the pressure on women to land a dude. In The Wedding Date, we see Kat Ellis (Messing) deal with her family’s pressure and pity when it comes to her dating life, or lack thereof. We get a deeper glimpse into how rough it can be for single women—and that perspective was missing from The Perfect Date.
Rom-coms and Hallmark movies are often accepted as different versions of the same story, but The Perfect Date had an opportunity to be real. It could’ve shown how hard it is to constantly open yourself up to new guys. How the rejection that comes with dating can beat you down. How hard it is to be vulnerable. Yes, I am used to these movies being an escape from my dating reality, but this movie in particular had an opportunity to reflect what it’s really like. Seeing even a wink of that in this rom-com would’ve made it perfect, instead of just being another cheesy story in an overpopulated genre.
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