A place where the water is bluer, the food tastier and the people…well, they’re classier. More cultured. And where Brooks Rattigan comes from, class, ambition and culture are everything. At least, he wishes they were.
You see, Brooks is trying to get into Yale so he can say goodbye to his small house, his small town and every small dream he’s ever dreamed. Brooks doesn’t have time to waste on anything but the best. And Yale is the best.
But he’s going to need a killer resume, one that tells the Ivy League institution that he’s worth their time. Speaking of time, Brooks hasn’t really done much with his time to set himself apart. And when it comes to money, well, he doesn’t have much of that, either.
One day as Brooks is working his humdrum job making sandwiches, a popular, rich classmate comes in talking about getting paid to escort his cousin to a dance. And then it hits Brooks: This is how he can make money to chase his dreams. And it involves an app called The Stand-In.
That’s right. The Stand-In allows teen girls to customize their dating experience. Brooks can be anything they want him to be. Cowboy? Empathetic listener? Amazing dancer? You’ve got it, as long as you’ve got the cash.
But Brooks can only pretend to be someone else for so long. And if he wants to fulfill his dreams, he’ll first have to learn a little something about love, friendship and individuality.
Brooks is an ambitious young man. He really wants to change the world, even if he doesn’t exactly know how to do that. He believes that “without vision, we succumb to the average.”
Brooks looks up to inventors such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, and he wants to replicate their visionary passion. But he also initially believes he has to present a false version of himself to do so. Because of that, Brooks struggles to find himself, to be authentic. But after a bout of poor decisions, as well as ignoring his friends and father, Brooks apologizes, mends what is broken and learns to love who he is.
Brooks’ father, Charlie, is a disappointment in his son’s eyes, having gone from being a well-known author to a part-time professor. Eventually, though, Brooks learns that his father’s choices were shaped by his commitment to take care of his son as a single father. Brooks’ father also tries to spend time with his son and tells him he loves him.
Celia, Brooks’ first “date,” is a difficult person to get to know. She is extremely guarded and unforgiving. But, as time passes, Celia learns to appreciate her parents, to love herself and to give grace to others when they mess up.
The film majors on the lesson that external factors will never bring lasting happiness and joy. The story also emphasizes how everyone is different, but how that is OK.
An elderly woman gives Brooks advice and encouragement.
A girl jokingly says, “I am the master of my own universe.”
As Brooks takes multiple women out on dates, he makes it very clear to others that nothing sexual is taking place. And while he is telling the truth, his friends still repeatedly joke about him being a “male gigolo” and a “male prostitute.” We hear some “pimp” quips as well.
A guy says he will take a girl to a dance “only if she’s hot.” We hear about someone who plans on spending a night alone with his girlfriend after her parents go out of town. Brooks jokingly calls Celia a “sadist.” Celia sarcastically says that people have babies just to post their pictures on Instagram. She also makes a sex joke, prompting someone to say “coffee is better than sex.” A young man calls his girlfriend a “goddess.”
We hear that Brooks’ mom had an affair and began a new family elsewhere. We also hear that two parents have affairs to get back at one another. An adult male flirts with a high school girl.
A few young women wear revealing dresses. Couples slow dance, kiss, hold hands and flirt. Brooks kisses his friend, Murph, on the head. Murph flirts with a male customer.
Celia slaps Brooks in the face after he publicly insults her. Someone jokingly says she wants to poke her eyes out and tells a guy she will hurt him if he continues to speak.
God’s name is misused nearly 15 times. The s-word is heard about 10 times. Other vulgarities include uses of “b–ch,” “h—,” “a–,” “a–hole,” “d–n” and “douche.” A few people occasionally use the word “sucks.” A guy is called a “selfish pr–k.”
Brooks talks about seeing a drunk adult snort printer toner and jokes about attending an all-night party. A guy mentions being stuck in a room with “drunk Germans.”
Brooks intentionally uses his job to make someone jealous. He also lies and behaves obnoxiously at times. Brooks ignores his best friend, is rude to his father and to Celia, and lies to the Dean of Admissions at Yale and many others. He also makes a girl cry after he insults her in public.
Celia, Brooks’ first date, can be sarcastic, harsh, rude and vindictive. She purposefully puts up walls to prevent others from getting close to her. She can also be very disrespectful to her parents as well.
A wife says that her deceased husband was “ugly as sin.” A girl lies about spraining her ankle.
This TV-14 Netflix original is aimed squarely at teens and young adults. Relying on the built-in appeal of teen stars Noah Centineo (from Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before), Disney Channel’s Laura Marano and Riverdale’s Camila Mendez, these rising stars know what they’re doing—and exactly who their young audience is.
The Perfect Date is at times fun and witty, with likeable actors and relevant messages. Teens learn the importance of chasing their dreams, accepting who they are and pursuing real joy instead of the superficial kind.
But there are some mature themes here too, as well as sexual relationships and language issues that parents need to be aware of. All in all, Netflix’s latest teen-focused movie isn’t a perfect date, per se, but it’s not the worst, either.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).