I went gaga the first time I saw the trailer for The Perfect Guy months ago. There was gorgeous, blue-eyed Michael Ealy playing crazy again, which he’s phenomenally good at, and there was Morris Chestnut, who is Idris Elba’s sole rival for finest celebrity man alive (in my opinion). And they were fighting over Sanaa Lathan, one of my favorite black actresses.
Apparently, other folks were into seeing another juicy, black thriller, too, because they showed up in droves at the box office, launching The Perfect Guy to the top spot, with over $26.7 million for the opening weekend.
I was one of them, catching a 3 p.m. showing on Friday. Honestly? I wasn’t expecting much. It’s a standard thriller, not an art film aiming for an Academy Award. I was really just there to ogle Ealy and Chestnut and fawn over Lathan’s clothes, hair and general cuteness. But I did leave the theater thinking the film didn’t live up to the hype of the trailer. I wasn’t alone. At the end of my showing, a woman yelled loud enough for everyone to hear, but to no one in particular, “I paid $15 for this?!”
I thought maybe it was just her and (low-key) me, but my friends had similar reactions. “It was horrible!!!” said a friend who also saw the film over the weekend. “Soooo many missed opportunities for great lines and comebacks. So many stupid, cliché, Lifetime-ass scenes. Ugh. In fact, I won’t even insult Lifetime—that s—t was an ABC Family movie.”
And before you call us haters, the film has a 25 percent critics’ rating on movie-review site Rotten Tomatoes. The New York Times called The Perfect Guy “a boilerplate stalker story that proceeds more or less as you suspect it will.” The Hollywood Reporter slammed the film as a “generic thriller … which somehow wound up on the big screen instead of Lifetime.”
In an effort to be constructive with my criticism, I’ve come up with seven ways the movie could have been improved (and if you still plan to see it, be aware that there are major spoilers here).
1. Trailers that don’t give everything away. The Perfect Guy had great promos. The trailer that showed Ealy under the bed made the film a must-see opening weekend. Another trailer showed a car rolling downhill, so we knew there was a lot of action. But the combination of the two gave all the highlights away. We knew Carter, played by Ealy, was crazy and would die at the end, and that’s fine. But we also knew everything else he would do, from the sex tape to the brutal beating at the gas station.
We knew Dave (Chestnut) was coming back to claim Leah (Lathan). But when I saw that Dave was the driver of the car that went over the edge in the trailer, I knew he was a goner as soon as he closed the door because the trailer had given that away.
2. A better first date. Maybe it’s me, but I didn’t find the first date between Carter and Leah at the club to be romantic. I think the film was going for a Love Jones vibe, but Nina and Darius had a live band and old-school reggae. Grinding on the dance floor, even with Michael Ealy, didn’t cut it. It got Leah warm enough to want to make love in the club, though, so maybe it’s me.
3. Don’t kill off two hot black men. Carter had to die. I understand that. But Dave? No. There were other options. Put him in a coma. Break his leg, but not his spirit. Give him memory loss and he has to learn to love again.
I think I’m turning into my mother. The only movie she’s seen where Denzel Washington doesn’t live is Malcolm X, and even that was a struggle. She’s flat out said “No” to Training Day and Book of Eli.
This is how I feel about Chestnut. I still fast-forward through Ricky’s getting shot in Boyz n the Hood. Seeing Chestnut’s battered, bloody body hanging out of the car in The Perfect Guy gave me flashbacks. He didn’t have to die. Leah needed some hope at a happy ending.
4. Show more skin. It’s a PG-13 film, so it’s not as if I was expecting full frontal from Chestnut or Ealy. But c’mon, it’s a chick flick! I don’t even recall a flash of abs. We know Chestnut has abs because he’s starring in a new TV show, Rosewood, and the commercials show him running sans shirt. I don’t recall seeing Ealy’s physique recently, but given the way he wears a suit, I’m pretty sure he’s still got it.
5. Have Leah and Carter take it slower. I was fine with the sex on the first date, even in the club bathroom. Even the speed at which Leah introduced Carter to her friends. But toward the end of the movie, when Leah begins following Carter, I realized that she had never been inside his house and didn’t even know where he lived. But yet she had already taken him home to meet her daddy and had him spending the night at her parents’ house?! Girl, why?
6. Have her get rescued. Women should not always be depicted as weak and incapable of protecting themselves, and the feminist in me understands why having a damsel in distress and some male savior coming to her rescue is problematic. But I really wanted someone to rescue Leah. Like for her dad (played by Charles Dutton, aka Roc) to come lay a smackdown. He looks like he could still handle his business.
And while, yes, she took matters into her own hands and got the job done just fine, it bothered me that there was this black woman in crisis and no one came to her aid.
7. A happier ending. Look, I get this is a thriller, not a Shakespearean comedy that ends with a wedding, but sheesh! At the end of the movie, Leah’s got two dead exes—one who was crazy, another who showed back up and still didn’t want to marry her—a dead neighbor and no job. She’s left with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mortgage, a cat and her degrees to keep her warm at night. I’m happy she’s alive, but like Marvin Gaye once said, “This ain’t livin’!”
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.