Teen romcoms aren’t really designed to earn critical accolades, and this film can reassure you of that. Netflix’s newly released film, “The Perfect Date,” exhibits the same morally skewed character choices and logical gaps typical of rom-coms, and while the story’s interconnected themes unfold well, these choices and gaps ruin the cast’s natural charm, particularly that of Noah Centineo.
The film centers around high school senior Brooks Rattigan (Noah Centineo) during the pressing time of college applications. Brooks is confident in his academics but is worried that his lack of extracurriculars and financing will prevent him from attending his dream school, Yale. After taking a paid-gig escorting the confident Celia Lieberman (Laura Marano) to her school formal, Brooks finds the friendly escort business to be a lucrative venture. With the coding help of his best friend, Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis), Brooks advertises his services for the perfect date stand-in through his newly launched app to help pay for his dream school.
Throughout this movie, one thing is more romanticized than the romantics itself: the prospects of an Ivy League education. Brooks is dead set on attending the prestigious Yale University at any cost. Brooks’ father pushes him to a more realistic stay at the University of Connecticut, which has granted him a full-ride scholarship, even though he had yet to even apply to Yale. What’s a real slap in the face to college students is that working as an escort for one week affords Brooks nearly half of the full tuition at Yale, an institute with an estimated $55,500 yearly cost of attendance.
Brooks also finds himself willing to do anything for a seat at Yale, including sacrificing his morals and lying. In a miracle interview with Yale’s dean of admissions, Brooks is faced with the one question he couldn’t answer flawlessly: “What are some of your interests outside of school?” Brooks finds himself at a crossroads where he can’t find a compelling, truthful response. So, in his supposed best interest, he lies to the dean and proclaims beekeeping to be his one true passion, a pastime the dean enjoys that Brooks discovered through prior research.
The Stand-In App functions in the story to show Brooks’ desperation and utter lack of real meaningful personality. Not only is he willing to be a fake boyfriend character and lie constantly, but he allows the clientele to create their perfect date. Brooks’ happily sells out his time and morals to make money and further his own agenda, which prompts his friends to call him, albeit jokingly, a “self-absorbed prick.”
To service Brooks’ need for the money, the film stresses his financial situation in relation to every other character. Brooks and his dad live together. His father works as a night professor at UCONN while he works at the Sub shop, serving sandwiches alongside his best friend Murph. Brooks’ first paid gig to escort Celia to her high school in Greenwich, a wealthier part of Connecticut, lands him a lump sum paid by her wealthy father.
Brooks taps into this wealthy population where a majority of his customers come from. His profitable streak of professional escorting interferes with his own affairs when his paid dates mix with his dream girl. To hide his new hustle, Brooks is forced to lie to his crush, Shelby (Camila Mendes), which spirals into several other lies. When exposed, Brooks blames his financial status as the turnoff for Shelby, when really his dishonesty brought her judgment upon him.
Even with the condemnation of the cultural obsession with money, some viewers can relate too well to Brooks’ desperation; many college students have to miss out on friendships, experiences and life because they have to work long hours to keep themselves afloat.
What the film does achieve is successfully drawing the parallel between dating and college admissions. It’s rather Brooks’ total lack of integrity that leads him to lie and fake it till he made it. In true rom-com fashion, Brooks realizes his mistakes and makes up for them by charming his way back into his true love Celia’s heart.