As a young woman, I’ve always been hyper-aware of my surroundings and my personal space. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, lessons in the importance of safety were constantly relayed to me. I was told to carry an extra $20 around with me at all times, walk with keys in hand, and to walk in middle of the street if it was dark and no one was around. Those lessons (passed down to me from my parents) have stuck with me into adulthood and I assume the same is true for most women who live in large cities. “The Perfect Guy” tells the story of Leah, who manages to forget all of the basic rules because she becomes single-mindedly fixated on the dream of a husband, kids, and a happily ever after. Naturally because of this, disaster ensues.
The talented and stunning Sanaa Lathan plays Leah who breaks up with her boyfriend Dave (Morris Chestnut) when he is unwillingly to agree to the timeline she sets for marriage. Leah quickly falls into a steamy affair with a new guy Carter, played impeccably by Michael Ealy, who appears to be the total package even sharing Leah’s desire for marriage and a family. Not so surprisingly, Carter isn’t quite the Prince Charming Leah thought he was. After displaying unfounded rage, which seemingly comes out of nowhere, Leah puts an end to their short affair. Of course, Carter doesn’t take too kindly to this, and he begins to rip her life apart piece by piece.
Though there are some good components in “The Perfect Guy,” mainly due to the fact that Lathan portrays a successful, independent, Black woman who is apologetically in control of her body and sexuality, and Ealy who successfully captures the maniacal and psychopathic character of Carter, the film unfortunately falls flat. It seems too far-fetched that such a powerful woman would let down her guard entirely, and allow a total stranger complete access to her and her loved ones. Perhaps it would have been more realistic if Lathan’s character was desperate, but she didn’t come across that way at all.
All of the structural, if superficial aspects of the story are in place, but the film fails to dig deeper, giving talented veteran actors very little to work with. Lathan and Chestnut are fine in their roles, but the chemistry of a long time couple isn’t quite there. Likewise, what was supposed to be a sexy and steamy affair between Leah and Carter seems rushed and often mechanical. Perhaps if more time had been spent at the beginning of the film establishing Leah and Carter’s chemistry and connection, it would have felt more authentic. Even in the magical world of cinema, this film goes from zero to one hundred entirely too quickly.
As someone who is very easily frightened, I only jumped once during this thriller. The plot reminded me of 2002’s “Enough” (starring Jennifer Lopez) which is ultimately a better film and spent more time with the characters in order to build the suspense. Carter quickly becomes very terrifying, and yet even the things he does to Leah aren’t all that heart-stopping for the audience. Perhaps this is gory, but I was really hoping for some boiled bunnies, or at least whatever the equivalent of that is.
Despite the fantastic actors in “The Perfect Guy,” the film is disappointing. I had a lot of hope for it, but ultimately it just never delivered the jolt I had expected that it might.
Still, there are lessons to be learned from the film. Mainly, take the time to get to know people before you invite them into your lives, and when your friends give you terrible advice, you’re well within your rights to tune them out.
“The Perfect Guy” opens in theaters today, Friday, September 11th.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami