As I’ve said before, I made a pact with myself (and possibly Satan) to diligently review all of the movies that had accumulated on my digibox recorder over the Xmas holidays… but the urge to bail on this masochistic commitment kicked in almost as soon as I started watching The Perfect Man (2005). If it hadn’t been the final entry, I might have even considered skipping it, since no one else would ever know (or care), but dammit I’m determined to see this through to the bitter, aggravating end!
For those who don’t know, this teen-oriented rom-com stars Hilary Duff as ‘Holly Hamilton’, a girl who has come to grudgingly accept a semi-itinerant lifestyle, as the long-suffering daughter of a single mom, ‘Jean’ (Heather Locklear), who has a habit of hooking up with unreliable men, and then picking up sticks when they inevitably break her heart. When their latest relocation lands them in Brooklyn, New York, Holly decides that the only way to break the cycle is to invent an imaginary “secret admirer” to woo her mother from afar, simultaneously boosting the woman’s self-esteem, while keeping her off the “desperate hook-up” market. Cunning, eh? Yeah, not so much.
The biggest problem with this premise is that I hated the mother right from the get-go… I mean, this woman is dragging her two young daughters from town to town, without the slightest regard for their education and social development, as if they’re just pieces of furniture she can box up and pull out again when she needs an ego boost. She’s a horrible, horrible, heartless, needy, self-centred narcissist, and almost certainly the most detestable character who has ever been misrepresented as a supposedly sympathetic character in a romantic comedy. She’s blind to her own daughters tears, but we’re supposed to care whether or not she finds happiness for herself!? F*ck her! Holly shouldn’t have been running around, desperately trying to maintain her ridiculous charade… she should have been putting all that time and energy into figuring out how to become an emancipated minor! Weirdly, none of the other adult characters seem to have a problem with Jean’s behaviour… and we’re never told whether she has any other family members, who might be able to intervene and file for custody either. About an hour in, there’s a rather feeble attempt to generate some pathos, as Jean explains to her mystery man (via instant messenger) that she had to give up on her dream of going to bakery college when she became pregnant with Holly… but it’s far too litle, far too late. Also, it doesn’t explain why she had a second daughter, when she was still unmarried and stuck working shitty jobs. Meh! I don’t understand how she can afford to keep moving around so much on her wages either… but, yeah, whatever. Vile woman.
Of course, Holly isn’t exactly the most endearing of protagonists either… in fact, she’s kind of a bitch. I guess we’re supposed to assume that she’s only mean to people to keep them at a distance, so she doesn’t risk forming attachments, and getting hurt when she moves on again… but there’s a big difference between being aloof, and being anti-social. One of the most hilarious plot holes in the movie finds her making a new best-friend less than thirty seconds after setting foot inside the yard of her new school… seriously! She’s striding up the steps towards the front door, and a girl named ‘Amy’ (Vanessa Lengies) compliments her boots, then ditches her other friend (with a cheery “See ya, freak!”) to spend the rest of the movie as Holly’s loyal side-chick, and enable all her batshit behaviour. For example, to help convince Jean that her secret admirer really exists, Holly decides to send her a photo of Amy’s uncommonly handsome uncle ‘Ben’ (Chris Noth), even though she has access to the internet, and could easily have found a photo of some other random guy instead, to avoid any farcical complications. But, no, farcical complications inevitably ensue when Jean is invited to a party at the restaurant Ben owns… and, in a desperate ploy to keep the two of them apart (and prevent her mother from realising the ruse), Holly uses a lighter to set off the restaurant’s sprinkler system! Never mind the fact that poor, innocent Uncle Ben is going to lose a whole day’s business (at least), and have to refurbish any water damaged property… no, just so long as Holly covers her own ass, that’s all that matters. There’s an even stupider scene later on where Holly mistakenly believes that Ben is about to marry a woman she thinks is his fiancée (and how she could leap to that conclusion and never hear anything that contradicted it is beyond me), so she bursts into the church and disrupts the service at the (in)appropriate moment, protesting that he can’t get married to a woman he most likely loves until he’s read all of the sweet e-mails her Mom has been writing to an imaginary version of him! Uh… WTF!? And I’m not even going to get into the head-trip she’s laying on her mother, or the soppy love interest she treats like shit, because… I just want to get this over with.
Essentially this is a story about two raging sociopaths torturing each other for their own selfish ends… which wouldn’t be so bad if it were pitched as a black comedy or a satire, but the film-makers actually expect us to cheer this deadly duo on, and swoon when they achieve their totally unearned happy ending, dragging two sweet, blameless men into their web of insanity. FEH!
And I still can’t sell a script… that’s the part that really burns. Clearly I need to bash my skull against a wall until I incur enough brain damage to be able to write this sort of soulless, nonsensical horseshit. Yep, that sounds like a plan. First you get the concussion, then you get the agent, then you get the money.