Review: The Perfect Man

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Jean Hamilton (Heather Locklear) is not your typical mother. She's in her fourties with two young daughters ages six and sixteen and she's still highly attractive. She's a good baker, but has problems baking up the perfect relationship as she goes through loser after loser in hopes of finding the perfect man. What all this means to her eldest Holly (Hilary Duff) is that every time her mom breaks up with a guy, her world is thrown into upheaval as Jean moves her and her little sister across the country to start over in a new place. Holly doesn't have a constant group of friends and is rarely in any one place long enough to even attend a high school dance. Instead, she spends her time online blogging, a pastime that may be fine for film critics like myself but is certainly less likely to occur if you look like Holly does. The latest stop for the Hamilton family happens to be Brooklyn, New York, where Jean takes a job in a local supermarket bakery and begins to be courted by Lenny (Mike O'Malley), who works over in the bread department. Lenny's idea of a good time, however, is a Styx tribute band concert and Holly immediately begins to change the situation. Luckily, Holly's hit it off with Amy (Vanessa Lengies), who happens to have a cute uncle Ben (Chris Noth) who owns a nice and trendy eatery. Together, the two hatch a plan to impress Jean and steer her away from Lenny. Using a series of emails, letters, and gifts, suddenly Jean is smitten with Ben. However, problems begin to arise when the two come in close contact and Lenny steps up his game. Relationships between mother and daughter and friends are tested throughout to see if it is indeed possible to find "the perfect trampoline".

The Perfect Man is the latest Hilary Duff vehicle from director Mark Rosman, whose last feature, A Cinderella Story, also starred the teen pop-singing princess. Like about 90% of the movies in this particular genre, the film relies heavily on the audience's acceptance of the rather predictable storyline, and then the film becomes more about how we get to that final conclusion than the conclusion itself. The problem with this particular movie is that while the premise is completely unbelievable and the casting is a bit awkward, there is – deep down below the surface – elements of a much better movie at play. Director Mark Rosman and screenwriter Gina Wendkos (The Princess Diaries) have only sketched out a basic storyline, which isn't enough to carry 100 minutes of celluloid, and the characters are underdeveloped and rather boring. Then, they add in the unlucky and almost convenient nature of every event that transpires and mix it in with some forgettable and unimportant side characters, which try to amp up the humour to keep you from realizing just how much they are emotionally manipulating you at every second turn. I can't count on one hand how many times I was almost crying during the movie, not so much because the movie was good but because the emotions and messages discussed were something I had dealt with in my life at some point. Some of these include things such as a mother's relationship with her daughter and the concept of running away from a situation because it's the only thing you may know how to do. Now I'm not a daughter, but I have in the past run away when something got tough because I didn't know any better. So I could relate to some of what the film was trying to say. However, the movie just didn't work well for me because all this important content was wrapped in a sugar-coated exterior and an unbelievable plot with some rather odd casting choices. Come on – Heather Locklear as a single mom who has trouble finding a good man? That wouldn't happen.

I'd be kidding myself if I went into a movie called The Perfect Man hoping for Oscar-calibre performances. Heck, I'd be kidding myself if I went into pretty much any movie being released over the summer with those expectations, and in the case of this movie my assumptions were pretty much dead on. To be honest with you, I've never seen the appeal of Hilary Duff as an actress. I didn't care for The Lizzie McGuire Movie or A Cinderella Story, and I managed to skip her other two headlining features. She's had a couple memorable pop radio hits, but overall she falls in the "take it or leave it" category. I don't even find her all that cute. All of this will sound like sacrilege to her throngs of teen and preteen fans. Duff contributes an adequate performance here, though I don't believe for one second that she'd be a blogger. Moving along the believability factor, we have Heather Locklear as Duff's single and unlucky-with-men mother. Locklear has never been a great actress, but is always easy on the eyes. That also doesn't change here. In supporting roles, we have Chris Noth, known recently for his stint on Sex and the City but to me always known as Detective Mike Logan from Law and Order. He's all right, but is capable of much better. Also kicking around is Vanessa Lengies from the now-cancelled TV show American Dreams.

The best compliment I can bestow upon the movie The Perfect Man is that I didn't absolutely hate it as much as I thought I might. That being said, the movie is still far from being something I'd recommend to a general audience. If you like Hilary Duff and are a preteen or teenage girl, then this movie is definitely something for you. As I previously stated, the movie does have some good strong subject matter in its underlying message, but all that is lost in the shuffle in between some rather stupid comedic setups and unbelievable elements that simply exist to pad out the running time. There is a good movie hidden somewhere within The Perfect Man if only a more talented cast, director, and screenwriter were assembled to bring it out. However, in its current incarnation it's nothing more than an inoffensive, overly manipulative piece of fluff that will be in and out of theatres by the time the next mega blockbuster needs 4 or more screens in the multiplexes.

Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.

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