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The Perfect Man

The Perfect Mediocrity

Romantic comedies are not normally my genre of choice and on the surface, The Perfect Man appears to be little more than a silly comedy about a young girl desperately trying to fix up her mom with Mr. Right. While The Perfect Man has its flaws, what emerges is a fairly entertaining comedy with surprising depth.

The film begins with Jean (Heather Locklear) in the midst of yet another relationship meltdown as her loser boyfriend (a recurrent theme we discover) confesses his infidelities to her. One minor problem with this opening is the complete and total implausibility that a man (any man!) would actually cheat on Heather Locklear! At any rate, enraged, Jean drops the guy like a bad habit, packs up her house and two daughters, and hits the road.

Jean's precocious, eldest daughter Holly (Hilary Duff) bemoans the wandering, semi-nomadic, gypsy lifestyle she leads as a result of her mother's horrific relationship choices. Ever the road warrior, Holly yearns for a normal, teenage existence in which she can attend school dances, date boys, etc. In a desperate gambit, Holly fabricates a secret admirer (aka-"The Perfect Man") to boost mom's feeble self-esteem and bolster her on chances for staying put for a few months.

The ensuing complications are absurd and ridiculous, but not completely implausible. The stakes get higher and higher as Holly's deception becomes more complicated. It starts with an orchid and evolves into emails, instant messaging, and a myriad of madcap antics. Director Mark Rosman ably handles the material and manages to consistently entertain.

Equally entertaining is the performance of Hilary Duff. Duff stands out as the travel weary and sarcastic Holly. Far from a generic, superficial teenager, Holly carries the emotional baggage of a life spent on the road. Commitment phobic and saddened by her mother's seeming inability to see her own worth clearly, Duff pulls off a great performance.

Less compelling is the performance of some of the other key players. Heather Locklear does little more than go through the motions as the self-esteem challenged, Jean. What's never really clarified is exactly why Jean thinks so little of herself. Chris Noth plays "The Perfect Man", restaurant owner, Ben. Noth is charming and sexy as always and seems to know intuitively what to do to snow a woman, yet is somehow single?

More problematic than some of the glaring unexplained character flaws is the over-reliance on exchanged emails and instant messaging. Few things are more non-cinematic and the scenes in which primary cast members read their messages out loud (with no one in the vicinity!) are jarring and unrealistic. While it may seem like a minor issue, it becomes major when this fabricated affair is maintained almost exclusively via the internet. It just doesn't work.

But, the real clincher here that prevents The Perfect Man from being a truly good film is the disturbing underlying message conveyed. Specifically, despite her great looks, despite her intelligence, despite her talent, Jean is a woman that will always be unhappy, unfulfilled, and lonely without her "perfect man". Regardless of whether or not Jean finds "The Perfect Man", it may behoove her to seek "The Perfect Therapist".

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars