Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Morris Chestnut, Holt McCallany
Rated PG-13 for Violence, Menace, Sexuality and Brief Strong Language
"The Perfect Guy" is closer to a misfire than a "perfect" movie, but that doesn't mean it's a waste of time. The performances are effective and it packs enough thrills to satisfy despite editing mishaps and an overlong running time.
This movie has been mismarketed, perhaps to make it seem different than the genre movie it actually is. It's been marketed as a film where a woman has to decide which over her lovers is genuine and which is a closeted psycho, but that's not the case. This is really a "stranger within" movie like "Single White Female" or "Fatal Attraction." It's closest cousin is "Fear," and while it isn't in the same league, one must remember how high that movie set the bar.
Lobbyist Leah (Lathan) is at a crossroads with her boyfriend Dave (Chestnut): she wants to get married and start a family while he isn't ready to make that kind of commitment. She dumps him and two months later she meets Carter (Ealy). Actually they met before when they ordered the same iced latte but he let her get his because she was in a hurry. Carter is handsome, sweet, polite and devoted...Leah is head over heels in love. Fans of the genre know better.
This movie isn't about surprises. It's about psychological tension and sudden shocks. We know what's going to happen, but the question is how Carter will push Leah to the limit. In that sense, "The Perfect Guy" is serviceable. There is some genuine suspense to be found here, which is more than can be said of some of the genre entries ("The Resident," "Unlawful Entry," etc).
The film's lead is Sanaa Lathan, who isn't the best actress in the world but nevertheless gets far fewer roles than she deserves. The role of Leah isn't what you'd call "demanding," and Lathan's hard work elevates the generic (and at times dumb) script. Likewise, Michael Ealy has a limited range but is nonetheless effective as a "good guy gone psycho." Although he gets third billing, Morris Chestnut's role is small; he only shows up for the first three scenes and for another few around the one hour mark. This is Lathan and Ealy's show. The weakest member of the cast is Holt McCallany. Normally an effective character actor, his performance as the sympathetic but impotent cop is hammy.
Editing is said to be the heart and soul of a movie, but it's this movie's biggest problem. It's about 10 minutes too long, but at the same time the narrative can be at bit choppy. Scenes can start and end abruptly, and in one instance, Carter says he has to leave soon but a moment later he is having lunch with Leah and her girlfriends. Director David M. Rosenthal also overuses the most common trope of the genre: the villain is in the room but the hero (or heroine, in this case) doesn't know it. At one point this happens multiple times in the same scene, and at another, Carter is hiding in Leah's house for at least an hour...and she's totally unaware. Such sloppiness undermines the film's intelligence.
Another problem is the film's PG-13 rating. While intense violence, gore and nudity aren't essential for a film like this to work, mental violence is. There is a sense that this movie is being timid, which is something that really hurts a film like this.
This isn't a perfect movie, but it does what it sets out to do. I wasn't bored and was appreciated that I hadn't seen this exact movie before. And that Joss Whedon's name isn't anywhere near this movie.