It's a tale as old as time: boy meets girl after boy gets paid to take girl to her school dance and they fall in love after a whirlwind of hijinks that include boy fake-dating various other girls and girl attempting to make nice with coffee-obsessed schoolmate . . . on second thought, maybe Netflix's newest film, The Perfect Date, isn't your typical romantic comedy.
Considering how the streaming site has perfected the art of rom-coms as of late, it's obvious that it knows exactly what it's doing, and this Noah Centineo and Laura Marano-led flick is another stellar addition to Netflix's ever-growing collection. The Perfect Date is a refreshing blend of 10 Things I Hate About You and Easy A, but still something entirely its own as it follows Centineo's Brooks Rattigan, a high school student trying to raise funds for college. In this day and age — and with the help of his tech-savvy best friend played by Odiseas Gerorgiadis — he decides the best way to do so is by creating a dating app where he'll "stand in" for nonexistent boyfriends (the film's title was originally The Stand-In).
Though Brooks meets Marano's Celia Lieberman before he decides to make his specialty a source of income, the two get to know each other after Celia uses his services in her quest to date a boy from school. What follows is a delightful tale about figuring out what you really want, in both love and in life. The chemistry between To All the Boys I've Loved Before's Centineo and Lady Bird's Marano leaps off the screen, and was even more obvious when I hopped on the phone with them to discuss everything from the struggles of finding yourself in modern society — you have to "look inward instead of outward" — to why a rom-com without jealousy is so refreshing to watch.
POPSUGAR: So, The Perfect Date is one seriously adorable movie. What do you guys think makes it stand out from other rom-coms?
Laura Marano: I love this film because, you know, I'm a little biased. But, I really love how much it kind of completely breaks rom-com stereotypes. You have Celia making a grand romantic gesture and Brooks being the nurturing protagonist type, and I just feel like it's really funny! I think anyone can enjoy it — from my ophthalmologist to teens in high school. I just really think it'll touch a whole bunch of different audiences.
"I think we can all truly relate to that as human beings on this planet."
Noah Centineo: You know, I agree. And I think what's really exciting about The Perfect Date is that it's like the Trojan horse of rom-coms. Underneath the surface, there's really a lot more to it. There's self-discovery and self-acceptance. Brooks works toward answering this question from the beginning to the end, which is, "Who am I?" And the answers in the beginning of the film versus the answer at the end, are two very different answers. And I think we can all truly relate to that as human beings on this planet. I'm constantly asking myself, "Who am I? What do I want to do? And how does what I do define who I am?" And I think this is a very lighthearted way to introduce these principles to the younger audience through the vehicle that is this rom-com called The Perfect Date.
PS: OK, that was deep.
LM: That was a classic Noah answer.
PS: Speaking of Brooks's struggle in the film, he spends most of it figuring out who he is and what he really needs versus what he thinks he wants. What advice would you give to anyone working to figure that out for themselves?
NC: Man, it's really not easy. Be liquid. It's really hard to be solid on who you are. For me, you can go through life and build up these ideas about yourself that were either given to you by your parents or your friends or books you read or culture, and you can live your whole life by these concepts. You can go through life feeling unhappy and you can feel like a fraud in doing so. Or, you can go through life with a healthy amount of skepticism and pick up bits of mentalities and ways of being, and slowly detach yourself from being rigid in your definition. It's the gathering of all these bits, and what you decide to do with them, that make you who you are. So, my advice would be to listen to everyone, take that information in, and observe other people. Really decide what to keep in those observations based on how it feels inside.
LM: Yeah, it sounds cheesy — [Noah] put it much more poetically — but you have to look inward instead of outward. And I think we're so trained to look outward nowadays to define ourselves. When in doubt, it's what feels right to you, inside. It's about how it feels authentic to you.
"When in doubt, it's what feels right to you."
NC: What sucks is, I feel like in our culture nowadays — with social media and technology advancements and whatever the f*ck — all of this progress makes it really hard to read how we're feeling internally. We're living in a pretty crazy world right now.
PS: I could see that. My therapist would love this conversation, by the way.
LM: I know! But honestly, this is kind of what our conversations on set were like while we were filming. It was really . . . fun is not the right word. But it was really cool to connect. And the whole cast was really on that level, we would just go to Noah's room and talk for hours about politics and the psyche of our generation today. I think it really helped us to connect in that way, it helped us work on this film. It's actually a pretty fun movie, but it makes you think about how we deal with these issues on a regular basis now.
PS: I was going to say, I know you guys had such a tight filming schedule, but the onscreen chemistry between you two is so authentic. Did a lot of those kinds of discussions help create a better flow onscreen?
LM: What's awesome is that we have this understanding that we both want to have fun — especially when you're doing some sort of rom-com, you want to have fun — but we can't lose sight of all the hard work. And we both have this understanding of let's have fun, but let's still rehearse. Let's go do the best possible job we can possibly do.
NC: We really worked behind the scenes.
LM: Yeah! We rewrote some stuff, I mean, not that much. I don't want to make it sound like-
NC: We wrote the whole film!
LM: Yeah, basically, we wrote it. We're going to be honest. [laughs] No, I mean, I thought the film was already pretty special and pretty funny when I first read it. But we literally tried to make it the most fun, light rom-com we possibly could. And I loved every second of it. I love it so much.
PS: One thing I really appreciated about the film is that Celia's character doesn't change as the film progresses to make her seem more likable or more fitting for Brooks, which some people expect to happen in rom-coms. Was that something that appealed to you when you first read the script?
"We literally tried to make it the most fun, light rom-com we possibly could."
LM: Yes, totally! I think for me, I loved all the characters in this script, and I really love Celia because she breaks the stereotype of what you expect. She was just so fun to play. When you're filming out of order, it can be a little tough because you're obviously going through some sort of character arc and you have to figure out where your character is in their journey during whatever scene you're filming. All that boring actor stuff. [laughs] But what I loved is, Celia doesn't have your typical character arc. She doesn't even really go into that road of "I'm really going to try to be this other person to please others." She dipped her toes into that trope lightly, but not fully. So I loved the uniqueness of the character.
NC: Yeah, you killed it. I'm serious, man. You really brought a wittiness and intelligence to this character.
LM: Stop it!
NC: I think it's so necessary for people to see that.
PS: I agree, 100 percent! I feel like this is a new age of romantic comedies and coming-of-age films and the genres have evolved with the changing times. What characteristics would you say are essential for the perfect rom-com love interest nowadays?
LM: Funny. I mean, I guess that's an obvious thing because it's a rom-com.
NC: Lovable. Endearing. But then, you go back to, what is lovable and endearing?
LM: Classic Noah, taking it deeper!
NC: Maybe a little cold, brooding, and protective.
LM: That's obviously Celia.
PS: There's one moment in the film when Noah and Celia are at a party and they're talking about Celia's crush, and Brooks mentions how hot the other guy is while encouraging Celia to talk to him. I just thought how rare it is to see love interests actively root for one other to be happy in other relationships.
LM: I love that part!
NC: He was so g*d-damned sexy.
LM: There was really no issues of jealousy between them, even on Celia's side. In almost every rom-com, you have that moment where a character realizes how they feel because they see their love interest with another person, and it gets them jealous. If anything, it was actually [Celia and Brooks] being with their so-called crush that made them realize, "Hey, I actually have a much better rapport and connection with [Brooks or Celia]." So, I loved that we didn't deal with jealousy. I think jealousy can be a little unhealthy.
NC: There was absolutely no territorial behavior between them and that's why their connection was so powerful — it was truly unconditional love. Brooks was like, "Go be with this guy, I support you. I love you anyway." And that's such a healthy thing. But also, I think it's easier when you trust someone and you give the relationship time to grow in a platonic sense first. And then, if you want to rip each other's clothes off, go for it. [laughs]
PS: So, how do you guys identify with your characters the most?
LM: You know, every character that I play, I have to connect with in some sort of way to make it real for me. But something I laugh about is that, when people who know me watched The Perfect Date, they were like, "That's not you at all." And I kind of find it a little offensive, I'm like, I can be cruel like Celia is! But I think I related to Celia's confidence in a lot of ways. Obviously, Celia has moments of insecurities, as we all do, and I do as well. But I loved how secure she is, and I'd really like to try to find that self assurance, and I tried to bring my aspect of that into the character. But, I think Celia takes it to another level of being truly authentic, and I loved every moment of that.
PS: And you, Noah? Any connection with Brooks?
NC: Not really. [laughs] Well, Brooks has this ability to be a chameleon, which is why he's so successful at being a stand-in date. I identify with that. I think that I can really — I wouldn't say change who I am, but react differently in certain situations based on the people I'm with, so that there's no tension and there's no animosity. The natural flow of conversation is a lot smoother than if I was unaware of people's feelings or opinions, etc. So I think the chameleon aspect of Brooks is something I identify with. But he's also pretty ambitious and I am so lazy.
LM: That's so not true. Noah Centineo works his ass off!
The Perfect Date premieres on Netflix on April 12.