Ok, full disclosure: I love rom-coms, so I was predisposed to like The Perfect Date, the latest movie in the onslaught of light, YA-friendly romantic comedies that Netflix launched with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before last year. Sure enough, it’s a bona fide treat: airy, funny, sweet, and enjoyable if predictable and ultimately forgettable.
Newly crowned heartthrob Noah Centineo stars as Brooks, a teen from a working-class part of Connecticut who is obsessed with status. He covets the fast car the rich jock drives, he craves the attention of the most beautiful and popular girl in school, and his ultimate dream is to get into prestigious Yale.
Standing in the way of that dream are two obstacles: he needs to wow Yale with a stellar application essay, and he needs to raise the funds to pay for tuition. His part-time job at a sub shop isn’t quite going to do it, though. Luckily for Brooks, his best friend Murph (Odiseas Gerorgiadis) is a genius programmer with a generous streak. After Brooks successfully acts as a stand-in date and takes prickly Celia Lieberman (Laura Marano) to a dance, he decides to go pro to earn extra dough. Murph creates an app for Brooks that offers his services as the titular Perfect Date; whether a girl wants to annoy her parents, avoid parental pressure to find a BF, or just needs a guy to practice flirting with, Brooks is the ideal stand-in.
If you’ve seen any rom-com ever, I’m sure you can guess how the rest plays out: that dream girl turns out to be all kinds of wrong, Brooks gets caught lying, and the girl who’s perfect for him was under his nose all along. All the rom-com boxes get ticked. Including the gay best friend! That’s right, Murph, Brooks’s bestie, is gay from the get-go. Once again, it’s refreshing that this is just a part of who he is and there’s no fraught coming-out plotline.
But what’s frustrating to me is how token this representation is. Murph has a crush on a sub shop regular, and by the end of the movie, works up the courage to ask the guy on a date; but we never find out his name, and most absurdly, neither does Murph! The poor fella remains “tuna melt” throughout, which, while admittedly kind of funny, feels dismissive to me, and the ultimate tokenism.
While I enjoyed The Perfect Date and found it a likable, serviceable romantic comedy, it’s unfortunately missed the mark in terms of LGBTQ representation.