We all loved Noah Centineo in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, because really, what was not to love? The overwhelmingly positive—and slightly obsessive—response to this cliché yet innovative film was well–deserved. However, Netflix has taken a great movie and the refreshingly adorable Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) and overused them both to the point where they become dull and false in their new film The Perfect Date — and they’ve exposed Centineo’s uncomfortably bad acting in the process.
Netflix attempted to capitalize on the success of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before with Sierra Burgess is a Loser, which also stars the well–received Centineo. Sierra Burgess is a Loser is as bad as it is creepy. Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser) catfishes her crush Jamey (Centineo), when she texts, calls, and FaceTimes him pretending to be the popular cheerleader, Veronica (Kristine Froseth). She even shadows a date that she stages between Veronica and Jamey, and through a manipulative ploy, gets Jamey to close his eyes when he thinks he’s kissing Veronica—and then Sierra fills in. The movie venerates the unhealthy obsession of what amounts to a stalker, and unwittingly brings up an issue of consent with the sleazy kiss.
Centineo’s role in Sierra Burgess is a Loser is comparatively minimal. We see him for his side of the phone conversations, on the date, and in the end, when he realizes that he’s fine with all of the deception and, lo and behold, he’s in love with Sierra. But it’s enough to start questioning the “sensitive” persona in which he appears to be typecast.
Jamey is a reworked version of Peter Kavinsky. Again, he is a handsome jock with a sensitive side. Because the character is less original and interesting to follow, Centineo’s poor acting shows through more easily. He has the same awkward quirks in Sierra Burgess is a Loser as he did in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but because they are being reused, they detach from the character and reattach themselves to the actor. Now, Centineo’s exaggerated gestures are less of a lovable character trait and speak more to his overacting. The lines that he regurgitates in Sierra Burgess is a Loser take on a monotone from the repetition, and it’s easier to hear the flatness in Centineo’s voice. He’s starting to sound disingenuous.
On April 12, Netflix released the film The Perfect Date, in which Centineo plays high school senior Brooks Rattigan. The film is premised on one of his opening lines: “I’ve always wanted to date the most popular girl, drive the nicest car, and go to the fanciest school. But I can’t afford any of that.” In order to attempt to finance his dreams, he agrees to escort Celia Lieberman (Laura Marano) to a dance in exchange for payment. The two end up striking up a friendship, and Brooks, recognizing the profitability of what he euphemistically terms “chaperoning,” starts a service in which he stands in as a plus–one for any and all occasions. Predictably and assuredly, he falls for Celia, and he gives up his desire for the most popular girl, his envy of his classmate’s bright blue BMW, and his long–standing dream of attending Yale University. He says he is his most authentic self when he is with Celia, not when he is pursuing any of these material items.
I don’t even know where to start in describing the issues with this movie. Or with Centineo’s acting.
The Perfect Date’s trope of “fake dating” is incredibly similar to the premise of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. In the latter, it was silly and unrealistic, but nevertheless delightful because the filmmakers managed to embrace and transcend the trope. It makes Peter friendly, because it shows that he wants to help out the female protagonist. In the former, it is used to emphasize Brooks’ ambition of affording Yale. His hustle is clearly intended to be honorable: he’s chasing an elite university and doesn’t want to be too hard on his unemployed father. But it’s a desperate excuse. It’s strange that Brooks is trying to come up with all of the money within his last few months of high school to pay all of his tuition up front with a dating service. Especially when he hasn’t even applied—Yale has a 5.9 percent acceptance rate, after all. It’s confusing rather than lovable.
Then there’s the love interest. Celia resembles a manic pixie dream girl. She is entirely one–dimensional in her supposed anti–establishment stances, her distaste for Yale, and Brooks’ classmate’s bright blue BMW stand in diametric contrast to what Brooks wants. Her character is meant to be strong, but only serves to convert Brooks from his dreams of Yale and BMWs to his acceptance of a full ride at the University of Connecticut and his broken–down car.
Movie foibles aside, the most disappointing part about The Perfect Date was the unraveling of Centineo’s acting. In this third romantic comedy, the novelty of the reworked Peter Kavinsky character has worn off, and Centineo’s acting is held up to the light. Gestures and expressions that made Peter endearing in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before grew stale in Sierra Burgess is a Loser and were worn to a thread in The Perfect Date. Centineo’s acting is excessive: his eyebrows lift far too much, making him comical rather than a person to be taken seriously. His body constantly jerks around and his voice maintains a flatness completely devoid of any nuance.
Centineo unraveled in The Perfect Date, a bad movie that transparently revealed his overacting. I would be very surprised if he managed to attain any roles outside of his Peter Kavinsky archetype after the release of this film, which made me dread the future release of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 2.