Directed by Billie Woodruff.
2016. Rated R, 96 minutes.
Robert Christopher Riley
“You’re Charlie Mack, the photographer. I follow you on Instagram.” I rolled my eyes hard at this, one of the earliest spoken lines of The Perfect Match. It also epitomizes many of the movie’s problems. Let me fill in some of the blanks so it makes sense when I explain my gripes.
Charlie Mack (Terrence J) is indeed our hero for this adventure in love. Despite what we’re told, he’s not a photographer. He’s a talent agent/marketing something or other. It’s complicated and not well explained. The important part is he’s one of the top dogs at his company and makes lots of money. All of his friends are in happy, monogamous relationships. They want the same for him. Problem is that’s not what he wants. He’s perfectly happy being a playboy. Why not? Everywhere he goes beautiful women literally throw themselves at him with not even a hint of shame. Two of his buddies, Victor (Riley) and Rick (Faison) challenge him to date just one woman from now through the day of Victor’s upcoming wedding. They are trying to prove that if Charlie gives some woman a chance, he’ll fall in love with her. He maintains he won’t. Very quickly, the woman in question becomes Eva (Ventura). He sees her in the building where he works one and day, and later, so happens to be in the coffee shop where Charlie and his buddies are making said bet. Their relationship and its effect on Charlie ensues.
“You’re Charlie Mack, the photographer. I follow you on Instagram.” Let’s get back to that. It’s an example of how poorly this film is written. As I’ve already said, this is one of the first lines of dialogue in the entire film, yet it takes half its runtime to become clear how photography fits into his life. It’s his passion. By passion, I mean a way to lure women to his house. In the meantime we’re left trying to figure out what he actually does for a living. An entire subplot revolves around that very thing, so it’s kind of important. Instead of this adding to our enjoyment, it is a source of distraction. The Instagram mention is just one of many lame attempts to make the film relevant for a twenty-first century audience. The Perfect Match name checks various forms of social media, includes dialogue about followers, utilizes lingo common in those arenas, and includes an app in that subplot I mentioned. It employs some really iffy science, by the way. I guess that’s okay because it’s fictional. Excluding that, it feels like a never-ending barrage of verbal product placement.
The bigger problem is that the performance of our lead actor and the love story surrounding him are both empty. I’ve seen Terrence J in a few movies, namely the Think Like a Man series, he’s never struck me as a performer of any depth. Nothing he does here changes my opinion. He is a good looking guy with a great smile, but he fails to give Charlie anything beneath that veneer. When called upon to give us genuine emotions he comes across as a guy trying to manufacture them rather than having them. The writing doesn’t do him any favors, either. Charlie’s words and actions both clearly demonstrate that sex is meaningless to him beyond physical gratification. He tells us, rather matter of factly, once he sleeps with a woman he loses all interest in her. This is fine, as many rom-coms use this same starting point. This includes Trainwreck, a film I just recently reviewed. Unfortunately, the writers of this movie either forgot how their own protagonist operates, or had no clue how to work around him. I say this with complete confidence because the woman who steals his heart, not a spoiler, does so through a relationship based entirely on sex. You can’t have the one exact thing our hero is known to discard women for be the very thing that has him fall head over heels for one without making it clear that there is something different, something mind-blowing about “this one.” We never get the sense there is. This ruins any potential chemistry between Terrence J and co-star Cassie Ventura. We’re left with nothing but a pair of good looking people who like boning each other. That’s all well and good, but there needed to be some meat with that.
Issues with the writing are not contained to our hero. In general, the screenwriter seems to have all the parts necessary for a good story, but no idea how to assemble them. For our supporting players this means never showing us how their various, and typical subplots are resolved. Fact is the movie doesn’t care about them. All of their problems are merely things for Charlie to call them on when he’s pissed off. I know this because after he does this in grand fashion all of those things are magically fixed. It’s lazy writing. This mess of a screenplay is credited to Dana Verde, but two others, Brandon Broussard and Gary Hardwick, are credited as writers. I don’t usually name writers in my reviews, but I think we need to know exactly where to place the blame for this one. If none of them care about the people they put on the screen, why should we?
Trying to find a reason to care is a fruitless search you can’t help but embark on while watching The Perfect Match. There is simply nothing there. The film just does things it has seen other movies do, but not nearly as well as even the average ones. This renders it a collection of rom-com clichés without any of the weight behind them that made them popular tropes in the first place. The problem is compounded by a cast lacking the acting chops necessary to elevate less than excellent material. Without sex scenes or remotely interesting storylines of their own, our supporting players are reduced to a group of actors giving one-note performances. Some are better than others. Donald Faison fares best as the goofy friend. He walks away with most of the film’s funniest moments. A ridiculously tanned Joe Pantoliano also does well as Charlie’s boss. Everyone else garners a solid “meh” with two exceptions. Dascha Polanco plays Rick’s fiancée, or more accurately, the girl with attitude. She struggles mightily with forced line deliveries. The other is Paula Patton with a way over the top portrayal that often comes across as bizarre and unfunny shtick. However, I will give this to her. Her work here is memorable, if only for how bad. The rest of the movie is not memorable for the same reason.