'The Perfect Guy': Film Review

Courtesy of Columbia Tri Star
The best Lifetime movie currently playing on the big screen.

Sanaa Lathan and Michael Ealy star in this thriller about a woman tormented by a spurned lover turned stalker.

You've seen it a thousand times before. A guy falls for the wrong girl. A girl falls for the wrong guy. Before long there's some serious stalking going on and bunnies are being boiled. Substitute a cat for the bunny (no spoilers here about its fate) and you have the ironically titled, generic thriller The Perfect Guy that somehow wound up on the big screen instead of on Lifetime.

The story begins with successful business executive Leah (Sanaa Lathan) and her boyfriend of two years, Dave (Morris Chestnut), enjoying a blissful relationship. That is, until the commitment-phobic David plays nicely with a host's child at a party and it reminds Leah of her desire to start a family. She issues an ultimatum that is promptly declined.

Shortly thereafter she has a casual encounter with a handsome stranger at a coffee shop, who performs the ultimate act of gallantry by giving up his iced latte. A couple of weeks later he shows up again, this time warding off a boorish drunk hitting on Leah at a bar. He introduces himself as Carter (Michael Ealy), who works in "corporate espionage," and when he kisses her at the end of their subsequent first date it causes her to go weak at the knees and exclaim to herself, "Holy mother of God!"

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Carter soon lives up to the titular description, introducing the previously buttoned-up Leah to the joys of sex in a nightclub bathroom, and yet he also proves the perfect gentleman during a weekend stay at her parents' house when he sends her away after she's snuck into his assigned separate bedroom. He manages to quickly win over her surly, unfriendly father (Charles S. Dutton) by magically producing a pair of primo baseball game tickets.

But after he suddenly erupts into rage and nearly beats a man to death at a gas station for the offense of talking to her, Leah sees him in a new light and begins to back away from the relationship. When she breaks it off entirely, Carter is revealed as a raving psycho who will stop at nothing to get her back.

You can pretty much guess the rest of the story from here, as the increasingly desperate Leah seeks help from friends and eventually the police as Carter hacks her phone and computer, her beloved cat disappears and various other forms of mayhem ensue. A restraining order is issued to little effect, and even physical threats from Dave, newly back in Leah's life, don't dissuade her stalker, who uses his professional skills in pursuit of his malicious goals.

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Tyger Williams' screenplay is strictly formulaic, with only the occasional bizarre moment--such as when Carter, after having broken into Leah's house, uses her toothbrush in fetish-like fashion — hinting at the stylishly baroque thriller the film might have been. David M. Rosenthal's direction is similarly uninspired, and you can practically feel the fatigue of the lead performers straining to elevate the hackneyed material. The uncommonly good supporting cast—including John Getz (Blood Simple), Tess Harper (Tender Mercies) and Gordon Clapp (NYPD Blue)—only serves as a distressing reminder of the better roles they've had in the past. The one standout is Holt McCallany, who provides complex dimensions to his stock character of a sympathetic detective who finally gives a desperate Leah the advice she needs to turn the tables on her tormentor. But like everything else in this B-movie, it comes too little and too late.    

Production: Rocklin/Faust
Cast: Saana Lathan, Michael Ealy, Morris Chestnut, L. Scott Caldwell, Cahrles S. Dutton, John Getz, Tess Harper, Kathryn Morris, Rutina Wesley
Director: David M. Rosenthal
Screenwriter: Tyger Williams
Producers: Nicole Rocklin, Wendy Rhoads, Darryl Taja, Tommy Oliver
Executive producers: Michael Ealy, Sanaa Lathan, Glenn S. Gainor
Director of photography: Peter Simonite
Production designer: William Arnold
Editor: Joan Sobel
Costume designer: Annie Bloom
Composers: Atli Orvarsson, David Fleming
Casting: Mary Vernieu, Venus Kanani

Rated PG-13, 100 min.

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