Photo: Dan McFadden/Columbia TriStar
The Perfect Guy is the kind of movie you keep wishing would just cut loose and go off the deep end. Nobody goes to these Fatal Attraction retreads anymore for serious drama. But this one is a movie torn — too grim and self-important to go truly nuts, but too silly and slipshod to work on a more somber level. Sanaa Lathan plays Leah, a hotshot exec at a political-consulting firm who ditches her boyfriend of two years, David (Morris Chestnut), after it becomes clear that he’s not ready to marry her. (“I’m 36 years old!” she yells. “I’ve been dating my whole life. I’m dated out!”) Not long after, she’s saved from a drunk loser at a bar by suave looker Carter (Michael Ealy), with whom she’d briefly exchanged flirty glances and banter at a coffee spot near her office. He soon charms his way into her life. He does, indeed, seem perfect: He can take her to a club, gyrate with her on the dance floor, and make mad love in the bathroom one night; then go to her parents’ house and play ideal, modest son-in-law material the next.
One night, however, Carter loses it and beats the living crap out of a man at a gas station after a seemingly minor offense. Leah, appropriately freaked out, tries to distance herself from him. (It helps that right around this time, Dave starts to come back in her life.) Unfortunately, Carter is not only paranoid and violent, he’s a corporate-espionage expert as well, and also, evidently, something of a ninja: Soon he’s breaking into Leah’s house, hiding under beds, and rigging the place with cameras. Also, he sabotages cars, throws old ladies down stairs, and steals her cat.
I may be making this movie sound more promising and crazy than it is. The Perfect Guy manages to be both dull and frantic: The story and the performances are geared for maximum portent, but the filmmaking is choppy and haphazard. Casual conversations and dramatic moments are all shot and edited with the same hurried pace; scenes and characters are introduced so awkwardly that you start to suspect the film came in for some unwelcome postproduction tinkering. The very cadence of the film feels wrong. (Rhythm would be the wrong word, since it has none.) Like someone’s trying to rush along so we can get to the good stuff.
But there is no good stuff. When Carter goes Full Psycho Boyfriend, he does so in the most predictable, generic ways. And the performances offer little respite from the drudgery: Ealy telegraphs his character’s nuttiness early on by fixing his eyes on Lathan so insistently that we’re creeped out by him long before it’s time. That might have worked had he varied the performance somewhat, but he remains his cold, calculating self throughout. (Which in itself feels wrong, since the character is supposed to have a hair-trigger temper, but let’s not even worry about consistency at this point.) As for the always-welcome Lathan, she gets little chance to demonstrate her talents: She gives some life to her early scenes as a woman frustrated by the stasis in her relationship. But eventually she, too, reverts to the standard-issue damsel-in-distress hysterics. Even so, we might have accepted some easy, predictable thrills — had the film possessed the competence to deliver them. The Perfect Guy is a generic movie that somehow can’t even provide generic pleasures.