The Perfect Guy

Posted by Joel Copling on September 11, 2015

At least our protagonist--a strong, intelligent woman in a genre where the gender is sadly seen as naive in such situations--recognizes that this man who has entered her life out of happenstance is a jealous creep of a violent stalker. But he, it turns out, is much more than simply that, which might be the canniest shake-up of expectations in Tyger Williams's screenplay for "The Perfect Guy." On the surface of it, this is simply a serviceable "___ from Hell" thriller, but there's something to be said for how Williams handles his characters (who run the danger of falling into types before subverting them) and their histories (which inform their current actions, wherein the surprises lay). It might ultimately be serviceable, but it's also twisted fun to watch.

The protagonist in question is Leah (Sanaa Lathan), a Professional Woman with some sort of job in some sort of building doing work of some kind, who has been dating Dave (Morris Chestnut) for the past two years. The relationship crumbles when she, a 36-year-old woman reaching the end of the prime of her life, wants kids he isn't ready to have. Within two months, however, she will have met and fallen hard for Carter (Michael Ealy), who knows exactly what to say, how to act, and the gifts to give for maximum charm effect. But this being a movie with a title like "The Perfect Guy," it is blatantly obvious that's a load of crap.

Sure, on the surface of it (and maybe partly below the surface, too), this is one of those trashy thrillers that makes for a good time-waster on a Friday evening. It's not really Saying much, even about its own genre, but it does what it does with style. The sleek direction by Daniel M. Rosenthal and crisp cinematography by Peter Simonite are sort of an oxymoron to the nasty business going down in and around Leah's house and place of work as Carter stalks both. The entire second act is one long cat-and-mouse game as Leah makes every attempt of which she can think to get Carter out of her life. The problem is that Carter is three or four steps ahead of her and us almost the entire time.

The climax is also a clever twist on the usual stalk-and-slash formula, twisting it around as victim becomes aggressor and hunter becomes the hunted. Lathan's performance gets better as the characters loses more of her nerve (A detective played by Holt McCallany comes to her aid as paranoia and a self-preservationist streak kick in, and the man is able, in an amusingly roundabout fashion, to give her the advice that aids this process). Chestnut's role is far less significant than the billing on the movie's poster would have one believe, but Dave is an essentially good man who gets caught up in the machinations of Carter's diabolical plan and Chestnut is solid here.

But a significant part of why the film works as well as it does is Carter and, particularly, Ealy's performance in the role. The character isn't exactly complex, but he is cold, calculating, and (showcased by one sequence in which he tiptoes through Leah's house after she has already sicced a restraining order on him, sucking on her toothbrush and stealing her cat in the process) completely cuckoo. Ealy is superb at playing the many faces of Carter (The most interesting trick of the performance is when he is called upon to be sweet and unassuming and does such a terrific impression of it that the more terrifying parts of the performance come as a complete shock) and perfects the blank, dead-eyed stare (especially in one scene when he watches her and Dave, with whom she reunites, sleep in their bed). It's possibly a better performance than "The Perfect Guy" deserves, but it is also the one thing a film like this needs to get right.

Film Information

Sanaa Lathan (Leah), Michael Ealy (Carter), Morris Chestnut (Dave), L. Scott Caldwell (Evelyn), Charles S. Dutton (Roger), Tess Harper (Mrs. McCarthy), Kathryn Morris (Karen), Rutina Wesley (Alicia), Holt McCallany (Det. Hansen).

Directed by David M. Rosenthal and written by Tyger Williams.

Rated PG-13 (violence, menace, sexuality, brief language).

100 minutes.

Released on September 11, 2015.