The following is a spoiler-free review of Netflix’s The Perfect Date.
Of all the boys I’ve loved before, Brooks Rattigan isn’t one of them.
At first, Netflix’s The Perfect Date seems like a delightful companion to the rom-com hit To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Noah Centineo — aka internet boyfriend and TATBILB heartthrob Peter Kavinsky — stars as Brooks Rattigan, an ambitious teenager willing to do anything to go to his dream school, Yale.
To raise money for tuition, Brooks launches an app that can help pair him up with girls in need of the perfect date. Customers fill out the app’s criteria and create a made-to-order boyfriend out of the young entrepreneur. Brooks dons costumes, tries out accents, and otherwise makes the most of this pseudo-27 Dresses format.
Of course, Brooks’s service isn’t aimed at finding true love — and it certainly isn’t sex work (a point the film felt the need to make many times over, for some reason). Rather, the purpose of the app is to make it look like Brooks is dating whomever he is out with. Ultimately, he falls for one of his customers.
Sounds a whole lot like TATBILB, right? Well, beyond the casting and fake date premise, little about The Perfect Date lives up to that other film’s charm. Instead of offering up a cautionary tale on the perils of false affection or a cute look at teen romance in 2019, The Perfect Date delivers a portrait of an insufferable, entitled jerk of a teen boy in desperate need of some serious parenting.
It’s not Centineo’s fault that Brooks sucks so much. Brooks Rattigan (ugh, that name) is about as two-dimensional as a character can get, and no amount of Centineo charisma can save him.
Brooks likes cars, sports, money, girls, and the Ivy League. He dislikes feeling unpopular, boring, and not special. He idolizes Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, and Elon Musk. Brooks wants to change the world, but he just doesn’t know how he’s going to do it! Imagine the most basic version of a privileged teenage boy and yeah, you’ve got Brooks.
But dull stereotypes aren’t what make Brooks such an abominable douchey character. It’s the terrible way he treats nearly everyone else in this thin story, and then gets rewarded for that behavior.
It’s not Noah Centineo’s fault that Brooks sucks.
An example: Brooks’s relationship with his dad. Charlie Rattigan, played by Matt Walsh, is a down-on-his-luck writer, reeling from his recent divorce and a mountain of career setbacks. He’s depressed, frustrated, and deeply concerned for his son, since he’s not sure paying for Yale is a real possibility for their family. Charlie instead encourages Brooks to consider going to the University of Connecticut, a more affordable option.
Brooks doesn’t react well to that suggestion, ultimately mocking his dad’s unemployment and asserting his superiority, saying, “Look. I’m sorry, I just haven’t worked my ass off for the past three and a half years to go to a public college.” Yeah… okay, dude.
Brooks eventually evolves beyond this elitist perspective, but it doesn’t excuse the fact this condescending outburst goes largely unpunished. Later in the movie, Charlie even commends Brooks for pursuing his goals so tenaciously, entirely forgetting the horrible interaction and jokingly offering to sell one of his kidneys for Brooks’s Yale tuition. It’s a comically repulsive scene, devoid of any moral comeuppance.
Brooks isn’t the only shallow character in this exhausting story. His dueling love interests Shelby and Celia, played by Riverdale‘s Camila Mendes and Laura Marano, get written into similar corners. (Celia likes combat boots and Shelby likes money… but they both like Brooks?! Gasp!)
Oh, and Brooks’ best friend, Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis)? Well, he’s the closest to a multi-dimensional character this story has, but ultimately gets relegated to an underwhelming B-plot. (Brooks’s app is taking up a lot of his time, and Murph is angry about being bailed on so much. But then Brooks apologizes and Murph is totally okay with it. The end.)
In short, The Perfect Date is far from perfect, and won’t scratch the TATBILB itch fans have been struggling with since last August. To see the real Peter Kavinsky — and not this cheap impostor — we’ll just have to wait for P.S. I Still Love You, due out next year. Bye, Brooks!