Much like A24’s ownership of Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet, I feel as though Netflix has decided that Noah Centineo is simply too profitable to let escape their virtual clutches. Since starring in the surprisingly decent To All The Boys I Loved Before, the 22-year-old has become a genuine teen heartthrob, thirsted after by enough people to have gathered over 16 million Instagram followers. It’s understandable that the studio would want to capitalize on this popularity, first with the questionable Sierra Burgess Is A Loser in which he was the romantic lead, but more recently in The Perfect Date, where he has finally snapped up a role as the main protagonist. After watching, I can confirm that Centineo is undoubtedly the best part of the movie, and possibly the only legitimately good part.
Brooks Rattigan – I don’t know why he’s named after the villain from The Great Mouse Detective either – is a determined high school senior dead set on Yale, though his struggling father would rather he attend a closer, public university. After being paid to take out the edgy, snarky Celia (a sneering Laura Marano), he begins to take out other girls for money to contribute to his Yale fund, his friend Murph helping him out by building a bespoke app for the purpose. Alongside this entrepreneurial endeavor, he finds himself trying to win over Shelby (played by Camilla Mendes), the most popular girl in school, and enlists Celia’s help to do so. If you’ve seen a single film like this before (including Ten Things I Hate About You, which it resembled pretty closely at points), you’ll know where this ends up, and though it certainly isn’t my favourite film of the year so far, it’s a fairly innocuous ride.
What sets this movie apart from Sierra Burgess, a film criticized for its dodgy attitudes towards consent and disability, is its intense desire to come across as ‘woke’. While I appreciated the fact that Murph was allowed to be openly gay with no further comments or presumptions, I found the more overt societal comments somewhat irritating – Celia referring to the film’s Banksy-alike as a ‘rich white guy’ rung a little hollow when no real criticism of her own wealth was offered. And because this is a teen film for Netflix, they couldn’t allow the working class lead to truly appear as such; his house, while in a supposedly rough neighborhood, resembles an Ikea catalog on the inside, far from what the reality of his situation would likely be.
To his credit, though, Centineo does carry this film pretty impressively. His job is essentially to be as appealing as possible, and with his cheesy grin and Brando-mannerisms, he exceeds expectations. But, for some reason, the script feels the need to constantly undermine this. While we as the audience are meant to side with him, finding him charming and well-meaning, other characters begin to act halfway through the movie as though he is absolutely beyond the pale, forcing him to prove his friendship with them when his apparent crimes don’t seem too awful. This isn’t helped by Celia constantly negging Brooks – how are we supposed to take her anger at him seriously when she berates him in most of her scenes?
Netflix is pushing this movie with extreme aggression – Noah Centineo is here, and you WILL like him. While I understand his appeal, and this does make The Perfect Date more watchable, even Centineo can’t elevate the movie beyond mediocrity.