The Perfect Guy (2015) Review: Evil Ealy
Stalker movies are a special breed of horror. While most horror films take a supernatural element and then go from there, stalkers tend to be less fantastic. Sure you have slashers like Halloween and Friday the 13th, but those always end up morphing into supernatural horror anyway. Strictly speaking, a stalker is the scariest thing you could put in a film that relies solely on the horrors of the known world.
The idea of a crazed obsession that escalates into homicidal rage is not only scary but somewhat relatable. We’ve all been witness to a show of affection that rests on the thin line between intensely charming and massively unsettling. Stalker films that focus on that thin line have the potential to be a commentary on how a solitary act is socially acceptable in one context but deplorable in another.
‘The Perfect Guy’ kind of does that, but is mostly a loud thriller. As the title suggests, ‘The Perfect Guy’ focuses on that old cliché of the man that fits virtually every heterosexual woman’s checklist, otherwise known as ‘Prince Charming’. The woman in this story is ‘Leah Vaughn’ played by Sanaa Lathan. After breaking up with her boyfriend Dave, played by Morris Chestnut, Leah finds herself involved with the infinitely charming Carter Duncan, played by Michael Ealy. Carter seems to be a flawless fellow, until about a third way through the film when Leah realizes, Carter is not who she thinks he is.
Essentially, what you get here are two movies. The first being a light and airy lifetime movie about a woman with a new man in her life. Everything in these scenes makes for what seems like a parody of such movies. The music is laughably sensational, the dialogue is cheesy, and the moments presented seem like they came out of a trashy romance novel. Of course, that’s the point. It’s all supposed to feel as manufactured and dreamlike as possible.
The second movie, s not just completely different in tone but also in the design of it. For instance, the first scenes in the movie play with colours in the frame. Lots of oranges and light blues; characters even wear white. As soon as it becomes a stalker movie, however, all of that changes. The lighting is harsher in some scenes painting everything in a haze of fluorescence, characters are mostly in dark colours and the music changes from sensational to sadistic. So what you have here, is a movie that takes a look at subtlety, throws it in the trash, sprays it with kerosene and lights a match.
The problem with it is, it’s so jarring in its presentation that it never at any point feels organic. For the entirety of the movie, it’s all a montage that never really ends. Montages are great for cinema, a medium which can tell decade-long stories in 120 minutes, but the worst thing a montage can do is make you lose track of how much time has passed in the movie. If given such a vague idea of time, it’s impossible to contextualize how a character would react to certain events. You’re left having to make up whatever version of the story works in your head which is maddening when the movie keeps giving you pieces of the puzzle as it goes on.
However, if you get past how unsubtle it is and you’re a master at picking up on time passage, the movie is actually a pretty engaging thriller in the second half. Lathan is as good as any horror damsel in distress and is actually given much more than I thought she would have been. Chestnut plays literally every decent man character he’s ever played, but it’s fine because his last name is Chestnut. Michael Ealy suffers from having one of the most charming smiles and voices in Hollywood today, and this movie brilliantly takes those assets and makes them creepy. Seeing him say sweet things whilst staring intently is one thing, but when that same expression is used to deliver lines of criminal intent, it’s chilling.
I particularly liked how certain scenes were shot in the second half of the movie. There’s a shot of Leah in her office that seems like it’s from the building across from hers, and a shot of the parking garage from a long walk away. The use of space not only places the viewer as the faraway watcher but also in other scenes, space is utilized to build tension. The camera stays on these shots and plays with the viewer’s expectation, as Ealy’s Carter could be lying in wait, coming out of any part of the frame.
Because of these highlights, ‘The Perfect Guy’ is an entertaining thriller. The audience I was in responded greatly to it. It’s the type of movie that encourages “LOOK BEHIND YOU” commentary. Unfortunately, the movie never fixes its time problem, as I still am left wondering if in fact, the movie took place over a few months or a few years. As far as story beats go, it does have a few developments that I wasn’t expecting. It doesn’t get lax with the suspense and actually creates a formidable villain out of Carter. Ealy’s performance really is a standout. I can’t recommend you go out to see it in theatres, but as a home viewing, it’s perfect.
Rating: Catch It On Cable
Rating When Compared to ‘Unforgettable’ (2017): Half Price