Perfect Guy, TheReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/14/15 14:23:27
There's a thing that "The Perfect Guy" does, a fade-to-black when some necessary plot point in the stalker-movie script has been checked off and, as the scene has no further purpose, the film can move on. I almost imagine the filmmakers satisfied, having hit their goal for the day, and knocking off early rather than putting a little more work in.You almost don't even need to hear the story described: Leah (Sanaa Lathan) is a successful lobbyist in Los Angeles with an equally-successful boyfriend, Dave (Morris Chestnut), but they break up over his reticence toward getting married and having kids. Eventually, she finds a new guy, Carter (Michael Ealy), a digital security expert who displays a surprisingly capability for violence at the slightest provocation. Her breaking up with him and going back to Dave? More than slight provocation.
How much variation can one really get from this basic story? Think of the movies which have added a twist to this plot, and how ridiculous they have often seemed; verging too far from the real dangers of this sort of obsession quickly leads to absurdity. Which wouldn't necessarily be bad; leaning into some insanity might at least make for good pulp. Instead, though, The Perfect Guy often seems lazy: Here's Carter telling us the part of his backstory that would indicate he's not going to take people leaving well. Here's Leah making sure he knows the way that he can ingratiate himself with her father. Here's Detective Hansen (Holt McCallany) telling Leah what to do to make sure that we have the expected climactic confrontation.
And even then, it sort of requires everyone to either act out of character or to come across as far less capable than they've previously been shown to be. Unfortunately, director David M. Rosenthal doesn't go for the sort of unhinged reactions that could make this work, instead taking Tyger Williams's script and so carefully avoiding anything that could be pointed at as victim-blaming or themes based more upon emotion than fact that even the retaliatory silliness of the last act. Rosenthal, it appears, is a steady hand for a film that maybe needed a maniac.
If the movie floats, it's because it's got a primary cast stocked with attractive and talented people. Sanaa Lathan, for example, does a pretty fair job of steering Leah down what is a thankless and fraught path, as she has to be scared and victimized but also just courageous enough to avoid running to ground for purely practical reasons, as well as going back and forth between these two guys without appearing fickle. It's not an effortless thing - you can kind of see that this is what she's trying to accomplish as she does it - but she's mostly successful. Morris Chestnut has to do that a little bit - make Dave just personally weak enough at the start that Leah jettisoning him is understandable while bringing enough personal charisma that it's not a shock that she'll take her back - and he does it well enough to make one wonder a bit why he isn't a bigger star.
It's Michael Ealy who should be having the most fun in this one - movies like this are why actors so often say they enjoy playing the villain, and you can't say he's not trying, swinging from ingratiatingly nice to the sort of suspect whose sneering attitude might as well be a confession as the plot requires. A chance to do a few minutes of mad raving might have been welcome, but this isn't that movie, alas. He's got the right sort of damaged arrogance, though, so if a scene is feeling perfunctory, it's probably not because of him.He can't elevate it into really fun trash, unfortunately. Instead, "The Perfect Guy" often feels like a film where each part is good enough for a movie that is strong in some other area, and when that's not the case, it adds up to something disappointing.
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