'The Perfect Find' review: Gabrielle Union and Gina Torres anchor the messy Netflix rom-com

‘The Perfect Find’ review: Gabrielle Union and Gina Torres anchor the messy Netflix rom-com

Boldness defines Numa Perrier’s soapy romantic comedy The perfect find. The characters make incredible decisions in the name of love. Great proclamations are yelled from all over the parks and outside the apartment buildings. Everyone is dressed in the most maximalist attire: bold prints, geometrically striking jewellery, intense hairdos. It all sounds pretty incredible until you remember that ridicule is part of the fun.

Like any good romantic comedy, The perfect find builds a world you can escape to. Jenna (Gabrielle Union) is a forty-something fashion editor (the ambiguity of her age is significant to the plot) who has spent the last year recovering from a devastating public breakup. Her decades-long relationship with Brian (DB Woodside), an equally ambitious careerist, fell apart after Jenna demands clarity about their future. To escape the tabloid frenzy, Jenna moves back in with her parents.

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The perfect find

The bottom line

The delightful work of Union and Torres backs this up.

Release date: Friday June 23rd
Place: Tribeca Film Festival (fiction spotlight)
Launch: Gabrielle Union, Keith Powers, Aisha Hinds, DB Woodside, Janet Hubert, Alani “La La” Anthony, Gina Torres
Director: Numa Perrier
Screenwriters: Leigh Davenport, based on the novel by Tia Williams

1 hour and 39 minutes

Perrier economically examines this backstory in the film’s opening credits, a collage of newspaper photos and headlines soundtracked by Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong’s “You Can’t Lose a Broken Heart.”

The family arrangement does not last long. Jenna’s parents kick her out of the house, forcing her to move back to Brooklyn. Her return to city life dominates the first part of The perfect findwhich immediately asserts itself among the chic mess of Sex and the City, Run the World AND Harlem.

Like Carrie, Ella and Camille, Jenna wants to make a name for herself and find love in New York. Perrier’s New York City feature, like those shows, is easily recognized in the brownstone-faced blocks and street signs. The interiors are a different story, and it’s best not to consider too deeply how any of these characters make their rent.

Jenna’s return to town takes her to the offices of Darzine, a fictional publishing powerhouse run by her Anna Wintour-style editor and Jenna’s nemesis, Darcy (Gina Torres). The perfect find it’s at its best when Union’s Jenna and Torres’ Darcy are on screen.

What can I say about these two actresses, who revel in their roles as enemies? It’s worth pointing out the coldness of their exchanged glances when Jenna asks Darcy for a job. There’s also the sharpness of their banter, laced with the acidity of shared history and resentment. Not to mention the clothes, whose gesture in their different take on a similar maximalist aesthetic.

Their feud goes back decades, its outlines familiar. The two women started their careers together, but Jenna always got the job and the men. It took Darcy some work to make a name for herself (although that didn’t heal the chip on her shoulder). He makes Jenna beg for the job—a bit of humiliation for a favor. Union is comfortable with her in her role as an iron media worker overcoming haters and detractors; she walks in and out of the Darzine offices with a certainty that reminds her Being Mary Jane days.

Things are looking up for Jenna after she gets her new job. Her friends take her out for a celebratory night at a glamorous penthouse party, where she meets a handsome, much younger man (Keith Powers). But Jenna ends the party before their steamy kissing session can really go anywhere.

It’s no surprise when she meets 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 attraction to each other seems more forbidden in the daylight hours. The perfect find it’s really about Jenna and Eric’s supposedly warm relationship, but after an electric opening with Jenna and Darcy, it’s hard not to wish it wasn’t. Powers is buttery as Eric—fluid in his performance and appropriately cheesy—but the script doesn’t give him much to work with.

Despite the amount of time we spend with Jenna and Eric, as they zip around town looking for ways to boost Darzine subscriptions, The perfect find shortens its raison d’être. The film gleefully deals with the two-decade age difference between the romantic leads (this is also a problem of Without hard feelingsalthough in that film the relationship is interpreted as a friendship), but Eric is not explored enough to allow us to understand what Jenna sees in him.

I couldn’t tell you what Eric really wants in a relationship or why it drives Jenna crazy, in his words. This creates an erratic chemistry between the two, which makes it difficult to ride the waves of their relationship as they go from making out to bickering to genuinely falling in love.

Perrier’s direction – which pays sweet homage to romantic comedies and vintage Hollywood – compensates for the underdeveloped narrative and occasionally stiff performances from the supporting cast. It focuses on Eric and Jenna’s love for Greta Garbo and Nina Mae McKinney. He gives the couple space to talk about their interests (but again, I wish these conversations went a little deeper) and asks editor Paul Millspaugh to weave together archival clips of McKinney and scenes from The flesh and the devil – another of our protagonists’ mutual loves.

Rather than distracting, these touches capture the delicacy of a recent trend toward nostalgia and retrieval of black archives. Images from the past have taken on a peculiar role in the present, which seems both honorable and voyeuristic.

Eric and Jenna take advantage of this, using it to boost Darzine subscriptions. They scout out vintage dealers all over town and set up photo shoots and campaigns that bottle and sell this nostalgia. It’s a short side quest, but it does add some balance The perfect findgiving depth to a relationship that can’t help but feel shallow, despite the film’s best intentions.