Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 13, 2015)
With 2015’s The Perfect Guy, we take a look at the dark side of romantic obsession. Leah Vaughn (Sanaa Lathan) enjoys a successful career as a lobbyist, but her personal life hits a snarl when she ends her relationship with long-time boyfriend David King (Morris Chestnut) due to his refusal to commit.
Leah’s love life quickly peps up, though, when she dates Carter Duncan (Michael Ealy), a handsome, charming IT professional she first encounters at a coffee shop. They launch into a passionate romance that seems great at first. However, complications ensue that indicate Carter may not be as good as he seems.
None of that creates a set-up for an especially original tale, as we’ve seen plenty of movies that present “perfect guys” – or gals - who turn out to be much less wonderful than they appear. Of course, by “less wonderful”, I mean “complete nutbags”.
I really don’t mind the lack of plot originality, as I think films with well-worn narratives can succeed. However, those movies need more creativity and logic than we find in the plodding Guy.
On the positive side, I like Ealy’s performance as Carter. Because we saw the movie’s synopsis, we’re well aware he’ll turn out to be a psycho, but Ealy doesn’t overplay this side of the character.
This seems especially important during the movie’s first act. Too many actors telegraph the insanity in their characters, and those choices make us question the behavior of the protagonist. If the viewer can tell that the “perfect guy” is nuts, why can’t the lead?
Ealy makes sure that Carter comes across as nice but not unctuous. He creates a sweet, likable personality without a sense of insincerity or implied menace. Even when we see small sparks of the character’s sinister side – such as when Carter calls Leah a “slut” and a “floozy” – it comes across more as playful than threatening.
Unfortunately, Guy squanders Ealy’s performance because it forces Carter to change his tune too quickly. Rather than allow his psychoses to emerge gradually, Carter goes emotionally kablooey in a hurry.
I don’t like this choice because it eliminates most of the suspense. A more involving film would build the drama slowly and tease the audience that way, whereas Guy lays it all on the line early in the tale.
Not only does that choice damage the movie’s tension, but it also forces the characters to act like idiots. Granted, many films of this sort require moronic actions from the participants to progress, but Guy goes too far in that regard.
In particular, Leah has to behave illogically and irresponsibly to keep the narrative in motion. This makes the viewer less sympathetic to her plight, as she seems like too much of a dope for us to care about her.
In addition, the choice to make Guy a “PG-13” effort perplexes me. I can’t imagine many 14-year-olds will see a movie like this, so why not go for the “R” that a steamy psycho-drama usually demands? With the more gentle rating, Guy tends to pull punches that rob it of the intensity an “R” could deliver.
None of these factors turn The Perfect Guy a truly bad movie. Even with its flaws, it remains watchable and professional. It simply lacks much to make it more than that, so it ends up as a mediocre genre effort without anything to elevate it above its peers.