March 22, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Romantic thriller falls far from perfect

"The Perfect Guy"

Directed by David M. Rosenthal

The sound of approaching footsteps breaks the ominous silence, alerting Leah (Sanaa Lathan) to another presence. Looking over her shoulder to find no one in sight, she quickens her walk and approaches her car only to find a red rose with a note attached to the window. She reads the note’s chilling contents, unaware that this one simple gesture has set a series of dangerous events in motion.

In his latest feature film, “The Perfect Guy,” director David M. Rosenthal attempts to present a mind-numbing dissection of a romantic relationship gone wrong, only to end up wasting the audience’s time. Set in the suburbs of Los Angeles, the film follows Leah as she attempts to deal with a painful breakup from her commitment-phobic boyfriend Dave (Morris Chestnut). An unexpected encounter with Carter Duncan (Michael Ealy), an information technology specialist who frequents the coffeehouse she goes to, results in a sexually charged courtship that leaves her thinking she’s finally found Mr. Right. When Leah breaks off the relationship after a violent, unsettling incident, she finds herself struggling to stay alive as Carter’s unstable behavior threatens to destroy everything and everyone she loves.

In stark contrast to recent psychological thrillers, such as Joel Edgerton’s “The Gift” and Alex Ross Perry’s “Queen of Earth,” “The Perfect Guy” distorts the image to which it so desperately clings until all that remains is a cliche-filled narrative that fails to elicit a single gasp of horror from viewers. Despite the fact that Rosenthal attempts to draw audience members away from what matters and keep them in suspense so the narrative crescendos hit with greater ferocity, the exposition-heavy action and contrived dialogue fail to keep interest and make the final product come across as an utterly mediocre piece of schlock that lacks any sense of cohesiveness.

As unimpressive as the craftsmanship is, the individual personalities are what cause this banal drama to fall flat. Lathan’s portrayal of Leah is nothing short of appalling, primarily because her characterization consists of her body and nothing else. Opposite her is Ealy, who initially builds Carter up as an enigmatic and extremely volatile stranger only to quickly fall victim to overused cliches and turn into a doppleganger of Glenn Close’s character from the 1987 film “Fatal Attraction.” Instead of feeling the cracks in his already fractured psyche, viewers will be left feeling like they want to burst into laughter at his so-called “attempts” to make Leah fall in love with him.

Rounding out the main cast is Chestnut, who unfortunately comes across as a plot device instead of a full-fledged character. His role as Dave is largely limited to delivering exposition about his relationship with Leah and attempting to protect her from Carter. It almost feels as if his character was added in as an afterthought.

In terms of the story, the plot moves too slowly at some points and too quickly at others. The failure to establish a consistent pace will leave viewers confused as to whether they spent their hard-earned money at the box office to see a thriller or a melodrama. The editing is so uneven that it is difficult to get invested in the plot or have any sympathy for the characters. It seems almost disappointing that a director like Rosenthal agreed to be at the helm and still failed to take charge of this colossal washout.

Depthless and superficial, “The Perfect Guy” once again proves that the cinematic industry continues to fail when it comes to offering original entertainment for the masses. While it may make some think twice about beginning a relationship with a complete stranger, this film will leave many appalled at what can only be described as a jumbled mess that should never have been made in the first place.