Boldness defines Numa Perrier’s soapy romantic comedy The perfect find. Characters make incredible decisions in the name of love. Grand proclamations are shouted from parks and outside apartment buildings. Everyone is dressed in the most maximalist clothes: loud prints, geometrically striking jewelry, intense hairstyles. It all seems pretty unbelievable until you remember that the ridiculousness is part of the fun.
Like any good romantic comedy, The perfect find builds a world where you can escape. Jenna (Gabrielle Union) is a fashion editor in her 40s (the ambiguity of her age is important to the plot) who has spent the past year recovering from a devastating public rift. Her 10-year relationship with Brian (DB Woodside), an equally ambitious careerist, came crashing down after Jenna sought clarity about their future. To escape the tabloid press, Jenna moves back in with her parents.
The perfect find
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Wonderful work by Union and Torres supports it.
Perrier economically discusses this backstory in the film’s closing credits, a collage of newspaper photos and headlines featuring soundtracks from Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong’s “You Can’t Lose a Broken Heart.”
Family life does not last long. Jenna’s parents kick her out, forcing her to move back to Brooklyn. Her return to city life dominates the first part of The perfect findwhich immediately takes its place among the chic clutter of Sex and the city, run the world And Haarlem.
Like Carrie, Ella and Camille, Jenna wants to make a name for herself and find love in New York. Like those shows, the New York City hallmark of Perrier is easily recognizable in the brownstone-lined blocks and street signs. The interiors are a different story, and it’s best not to think too deeply about how one of these characters earns rent.
Jenna’s return to town leads her to the offices of Darzine, a fictional publishing house run by the Anna Wintour-esque editor and Jenna’s enemy, Darcy (Gina Torres). The perfect find is at its best when Jenna from Union and Darcy from Torres are on screen.
What can I say about these two actresses who enjoy their role as enemies? It’s worth pointing out the coldness of their exchanged looks when Jenna asks Darcy for a job. There’s also the sharpness of their banter, laced with the sourness of shared history and resentment. Not to mention the outfits, which take on a similar maximalist aesthetic in their various forms.
Their feud goes back decades, the contours are well known. The two women started their careers together, but Jenna always got the jobs and the men. It took Darcy some effort to make up her own name (although that didn’t heal the chip on her shoulder). She makes Jenna beg for the job – a little humiliation in exchange for a favor. Union feels at home in her role as a rock-solid media worker who conquers haters and detractors; she saunters in and out of Darzine’s offices with a confidence that reminds her being Mary Jane to dawn.
Things are looking good for Jenna after getting the new job. Her friends take her out for a celebratory evening at a glamorous penthouse party, where she meets a charming, much younger man (Keith Powers). But Jenna runs out of the party before their steamy kissing session can really go either way.
It’s not surprising when she bumps into her mystery man at work the next day. Eric – that’s his name – is the magazine’s new videographer and, of course, Darcy’s son. Their mutual attraction looks more forbidden during the day. The perfect find is really about Jenna and Eric’s supposedly hot relationship, but after an electric opening with Jenna and Darcy, it’s hard not to wish it wasn’t. Powers is buttery like Eric – smooth in his delivery and suitably corny – but the screenplay doesn’t give him much to work with.
Despite the amount of time we spend with Jenna and Eric as they roam the city looking for ways to increase Darzine’s subscriptions, The perfect find detracts from its existence. The film gleefully addresses the two-decade age difference between the romantic leads (this is also a problem of No hard feelingsalthough in that movie the relationship is played out as a friendship), but Eric isn’t fleshed out enough to understand what Jenna sees in him.
I couldn’t tell you what Eric really wants in a relationship or why he drives Jenna, in her words, “crazy.” This creates uneven chemistry between the two, making it difficult to ride the waves of their relationship, from making love to bickering to genuinely falling in love.
Perrier’s directing – which is a sweet tribute to romantic comedies and vintage Hollywood – makes up for the underdeveloped story and sometimes stiff performances of the supporting cast. She plays on Eric and Jenna’s love for Greta Garbo and Nina Mae McKinney. She gives the pair space to talk about their interests (but again, I wish these conversations were dug a little deeper) and shows editor Paul Millspaugh archival clips of McKinney and scenes from Meat and the devil – another of the mutual loves of our protagonists.
Rather than distracting, these accents capture the awkwardness of a recent trend of nostalgia and reclamation of black records. Images from the past have taken on a peculiar role in the present, one that feels at once honorable and voyeuristic.
Eric and Jenna take advantage of this and use it to boost Darzine’s subscriptions. They source vintage resellers all over the city and organize shoots and campaigns that bottle and sell this nostalgia. It’s a short, secondary quest, but it does add some balance The perfect findgiving depth to a relationship that feels superficial despite the film’s best intentions.