11 September 2015 | StevePulaski
Competent, serviceable entertainment
The worst thing the acclaimed 1987 drama "Fatal Attraction" ever did was make future films revolving around obsessions in relationships suffer by comparison. It seems that whatever films come out revolving around a crush that turns into a lethal obsession, all that needs to be done is reference the classic drama, claim it's better and always will be, and after that, there's no reason to take the successor in question seriously.
While "The Perfect Guy" is far from a solid film, and bears some glaring shortcomings, it has a certain level of appeal that kicks in around the third act, making it morph into a more lively thriller than others of the genre. The film focuses on Leah Vaughn (Sanaa Lathan), a successful woman working in corporate America, who has been building an equally successful relationship with her boyfriend David (Morris Chestnut). One day, however, she recognizes the fact that she's approaching forty and is still unmarried and childless, leading to spontaneously break up with David in the face of an early on-set midlife crisis.
Not long after, Leah meets Carter (Michael Ealy), a suave, charming stranger at a coffee shop, who gives her his iced latte before her's is served. They meet later that night once more, as fate would have it, and Carter romanticizes her with his selfless words and his incredibly easygoing nature and begin dating. However, when a harmless stranger at a gas station is mistaken for a creep and Carter responses with uncompromising brutality, Leah cuts him off from her life. As a result, Carter makes numerous advances towards Leah, taking no for an answer each time, resorting to following her and calling her throughout the day. Leah enlists in the help of Detective Hansen (Holt McCallany), who explains how difficult it is to persecute a rampant stalker without concrete evidence of life-threatening harassment, all while Carter's behavior never lets up.
The acting in "The Perfect Guy" is uniformly shaky, with Lathan and Chestnut clearly doing their best to work on a basic level with what screenwriter Tyger Williams has given them. Williams concocts an emotionally obvious screenplay, with predictable dialog that handcuffs its actors to delivering the bare-basics in casual conversation (the PG-13 rating also doesn't help too much). The actors that do take their roles to another level, however, are Michael Ealy and Holt McCallany. Ealy's smug facial expressions, likable smile, and sexy charisma make him almost irresistibly attractive from the first frame he's in, and even when he shows his despicable ways, he is still a fascinating character. His performance may not be groundbreaking, but it works because he exploits it for what it is. Also very talented but unlikely to share what little acclaim this film will find is McCallany, whose serious and even-tempered demeanor work wonders when paired with Lathan in the film's later scenes. Consider the off-duty advice Hasen gives Leah in a diner one afternoon, perfectly asserting himself as no longer a supporting character, but an off-kilter presence.
Finally, there's the frustrating element of reversing how we should look at a character halfway through the film. In the beginning, Williams and director David M. Rosenthal positions the scene where Leah breaks up with David as if we're supposed to side Leah, for she is unsatisfied and is looking to advance her life while David is treading water and keeping things simple. However, when Carter, the rebound, turns into a persistent stalker, all of a sudden, we are supposed to quietly condemn the actions of Leah, right after we were positioned to root for her in her ability to impulsively give up financial and relationship security. The same mistake is made in Tyler Perry "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor," albeit to a much greater extent.
At the end of it all, "The Perfect Guy" still serves as competent entertainment, particularly when it disregards a lot of the acting and screen writing shakiness for consuming suspense in the final forty minutes. It reminds me a lot of last year's "No Good Deed" (which came out this same weekend), in that the film takes a familiar story, but through a couple of solid performances and a strong dose of suspense, the film winds up being serviceable entertainment with a bit more to offer than mindless energy.