I was on the phone last night with the homie Lola from Mmhmm, Girl and she highlighted that The Perfect Guy is the last major “black” film released this year. [Editor’s Note: Creed is coming out in November. We was wrong. Alas.] Like, this was our last one for the year of our lord, Fetty Wap, 2015.
It’s a sad thing too, to end 2015 with such a mixed bag — this movie is good and bad, like a box of chocolates.
Starring Sanaa “I Don’t Really Deal with Emotional Niggas” Lathan, Michael Ee-Lee, and Morris Chest N’ Nuts, The Perfect Guy chronicles the dark roads of obsession, interpersonal violence, and stress that come from dating smooth talking waffle-colored men that you meet at your local coffee shop.
Part of me wishes that wasn’t the best way to describe this film, but it’s pretty accurate.
In the film, California lobbyist Leah (Lathan) is having pre-marital troubles with her chocolate architect boyfriend Dave (Chest N’ Nuts). Leah is 36 and wants babies….Dave doesn’t. In a pretty flat exchange, Dave explains his fear of commitment by blaming it on his family’s history of failed relationships. They break up, of course.
Theo Noble Carter Duncan (Ee-Lee).
After a chance encounter at a coffee shop, Leah links up (and hooks up) with Carter. The relationship is all heart and eggplant emojis…until Carter beats a random guy to bits during their trip back from Leah’s family home in SF.
Subsequently, the last 2/3rd’s of the film involve a deteriorating game of domestic cat and mouse.
To its credit, The Perfect Guy is much better than 2014’s No Good Deed with Heimdall and Cookie. However, it doesn’t do anything new with the domestic woman-in-peril thriller genre it nestles itself in. In fact, it often plays like a Lifetime TV movie. The beats are easy to count, and it has some very kitschy-melodramatic insistence on fading in and out of black to transition through time and scenes. Moreover, because the film threw a bunch of good actors together for a fairly routine production, the acting often comes off wooden and one-dimensional. Honestly, it’s a crime. Especially when you consider the fact that between the three of them they’ve done some fun and historic work in films marketed to the black community.
Despite this, Ee-Lee is absolutely frightening. His chiseled smile is welcoming and unsettling. So much so that you wished it would come back, to at least humanize him, later in the film. As his obsession with Leah grows, Carter slowly unveils his true self; staring blankly in her direction, coldly calculating the deaths of characters, and even listening intently as he lays under her bed. It’s a hell of a performance and an interesting play on the oscillation of danger between quiet, focused Carter and brutal, physical Carter. This is in no small way influenced by his time playing Theo on The Following. Ee-lee literally ported himself over. If I had more time, I’d write some fan-fic where these two worlds were one universe.
But I digress…
On the other side, there are some truly warm and honest moments between Lathan and her co-stars. Despite the sad dialogue, she and Chest N Nuts have great chemistry. And there’s nothing more warm than some of the scenes at her family’s home in San Francisco.
The scariest part of The Perfect Guy, however, isn’t the bad story or bad choices (Leah’s friends are trash. Fight me). Rather, it’s the real-world resonance in what happens. Yes, this is a fictional story, but Carter’s behavior, the inability of the legal system to protect Leah, and the general patriarchal way that David tries to “protect” Leah are all too real.
Earlier this year/last year, multi-hyphenate creator and awesome person Feminista Jones created the #YouOkSis hashtag as a way to discuss, chronicle, and highlight the issues around gendered harassment, specifically between (black) women and men (but not limited to in any degree). If you have the time, and the fortitude, definitely look it up and educate yourself.
The hashtag here is relevant though because at its core, The Perfect Guy is one long #YouOkSis moment. And, as much as there is some violent catharsis in the film’s end, there is also a lingering wound in the film’s premise: men (and people, but specifically for this post: men) like Carter do exist, in many different iterations. And, there is little to no tangible protections for the women who become the focal point of their dangerous fixation.
So, while there are a lot of jokes I’d like to make further about this film (and there are many), I’d rather leave this on a bit more of a sober note— if only because it’s an issue that should be highlighted, and, whether the film intended to or not, it’s a solid analogue for real life in its own way.
The original Homeboy With A Keyboard ™, dap wants to be an enigma, but he’s pretty transparent. A transplant from “Back East,” he found himself in Oakland writing about alla the fun things. He’s in love with the coco(a) (skinned women and butter,) among other things. @dapisdope