Title: The Perfect Man
Genre: Comedy, Family, Romance
Director: Mark Rosman
Screenwriters: Michael McQuown, Heather Robinson
Starring: Hilary Duff, Heather Locklear, Aria Wallace
The scene: a mother and daughter are arguing. Earlier, the mother made a scene at a PTA meeting, embarrassing the girl by asking the honchos if they haven’t considered holding “mixers for single parents.”
Mother: “I was just thinking…”
Daughter: “About you! Because you’re always thinking about you!”
This marvelous exchange occured early in The Perfect Man, and I jotted it down, shaking my head and chuckling at the script’s lack of nuance and erudition. Some twenty minutes later, I had stopped taking notes, reduced to watching the screen in slack-jawed amazement. This is a monumentally bad film, the kind that only comes along once in, oh, I don’t know… Three years? Five? It is the kind of movie I cannot help but recommend to the film buffs who may be reading this, because it is such a plum opportunity to see unparalleled cinematic ineptitude in action. For those who are not students of the artform and are merely looking for something intelligent, engaging and/or fun, this is pretty much the worst imaginable choice. And I mean that quite sincerely.
I have a penchant for hyperbole, but I really cannot overstate here. The screenplay has to be experienced to be believed. It is probably the most witless, clueless, incompetent thing I have encountered in seven years on this beat. To see something like this in mainstream theatrical release is damn close to being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
One of the supporting characters is a wisecracking black lady, of course, but her idea of a wisecrack is telling the unlucky-in-love main character, “If ex-boyfriends were dollars, you’d be loaded by now.” Whoa! Watch out, or you could lose an eye. There is a flamboyantly gay bartender, natch, who shows up to amuse us with his flamboyance and gayness, making a harmlessly lusty comment whenever anyone around him so much as mentions a man. The latter, in particular, is unbelievable in that the movie actually seems to think this is funny. That ostensible Hollywood professionals could seriously believe that it was amusing is unthinkable, but it seems to be the case.
The story revolves around Holly Hamilton (Hilary Duff) trying to prevent her mom (Heather Locklear) from going out with a loser, as is her wont, by creating an image of “the perfect man” through love letters, grand romantic gestures, and the like from a “secret admirer.” The letters, written with the consultation of a real-life “perfect man” (Chris Noth), are meant (by the characters ands the movie) to portray the mysterious Casanova as someone sensitive and smart, which makes the already laughable attempts to impress downright hilarious.
Oh, and have I mentioned that our young protagonist is web-savvy? She is so web-savvy that she maintains a website, wherein she addresses her audience as “bloggers,” in magnificent phrases such as “hey, all you bloggers out there!” Holly’s sidekick is a girl with a thick Brooklyn accent; there are several instances in which Holly describes her latest not particularly complicated scheme to her, and she replies with “I’m lost,” to which the only appropriate response is “that’s because you’re an idiot.” At one point, a character speaks the words “you’d be bored,” to which I and someone sitting behind me replied in unison, “yes.” Late in the film, important conflicts are resolved over AOL Instant Messenger — fine, except that for our convenience, the characters start SAYING WHAT THEY ARE TYPING, and not in a non-diagetic voiceover either, but out loud, into the camera.
It goes on. And on. And on. It may seem too easy to pick on a movie like this, and if it were merely some dull, conventional, brainless romantic comedy I probably wouldn’t bother. But this is something else. On one hand it is probably better than something that is simply tedious, and I certainly have fond memories of laughing heartily at The Perfect Man‘s sheer idiocy. But on the other, the fact that this movie actually made it, as is, through all the stages of a major Hollywood production is inexplicable and disturbing. A “making of” documentary would have to be the most hideously fascinating thing.