Film thoughts: Noah Centineo and the rom-com revival

by Nicole Aboodi | 4/25/19 2:00am

As any regular watcher can tell you, Netflix has been delivering an inordinate amount of original films to our screens lately. Whether the film is an action-packed thriller or a celebrity’s documentary, Netflix seems to never run out of ideas. 

However, it does seem that the service has singled out its favorite idea; or at least the most popular and charming actor to bring said ideas to life: Noah Centineo. Centineo had his big break out role in August 2018 in Netflix’s “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” as Peter Kavinsky — the easygoing, handsome, popular guy who swept the film’s protagonist — and every heterosexual female in America off their feet. Now, in less than a year, Netflix has produced two other original films, that star Centineo. Now dubbed “the Internet’s boyfriend”, Centineo also stars in “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” which was released on Netflix in September 2018 and most recently, “The Perfect Date.” In each film, a misunderstood teenage girl is finally understood by a charming and loveable Noah Centineo character. 

The plot of “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” follows a young girl who is so painfully shy that she only has one friend. Yet, by the end of the movie, she has come out of her shell enough to dip into the hot tub fully clothed with the hottest guy in school. “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” highlights body image issues through a case of mistaken identity. The title character, portrayed by Shannon Purser, feels that Jamey — Centineo’s character — would not like her if he knew what she looked like. Through the path of self-acceptance and female friendship, Sierra Burgess finds that she can date the beautiful boy and write beautiful poetry, even though she does not fit the conventional archetype of beauty herself. And now, in “The Perfect Date,” rather than taking on the love interest role, Centineo plays the protagonist.

The star’s most recent feat, “The Perfect Date,” follows Centineo’s character, Brooks Rattigan, a high school senior trying to earn enough money to go to Yale University by offering his services as a “stand-in” for any date. As in any other easy-to-swallow romantic comedy, there is a happy ending and personal growth along the way. While the plot is difficult to imagine in reality and some of the dialogue is sappy, “The Perfect Date” is just what it is meant to be: a romantic comedy that is mindless and enjoyable to watch. The three movies do not pretend to be Academy Award hopefuls. You and your friends might watch them and shout out critiques that teenagers do not live like that in reality and, for some scenes, you might even need a lactose pill to digest all the cheesy one-liners that are served. Nonetheless, “The Perfect Date” is easy to watch and the perfect excuse to procrastinate for an hour and a half, just like the other two Centineo films. 

Centineo personifies the resurgence of rom-coms in the 21st century. Romantic comedies have often been referred to as films for young girls or moviegoers who are too immature to appreciate real cinema. Yet, now, everyone can admit to actually liking romantic comedies. Sure, the plots are a bit contorted and the dialogue seems a little forced, but that’s the whole point! Centineo perfectly represents how the genre has been revived; while the more solemn subjects may be mixed in, the films are going to thrive on their silliness and their predictability. 

And there’s no shame in that — romantic comedies are meant to reflect our fantasies. Although Brooks Rattigan begins “The Perfect Date” with high aspirations and low self-esteem, his arc finishes with renewed confidence in his friendships, a love interest and a bright future. While each of Centineo’s protagonists has their misunderstandings, lash out or even lose their way, in the end, everything works out alright. Serious topics such as Brooks Rattigan’s single-parent household struggles and Sierra Burgess’s body image battles are peppered into the stories, but without getting too serious. There’s always a light atmosphere, indicating that teenagers are dealing with grave problems, but these aren’t those kinds of movies; these are meant to be lighthearted. The ultimate message is comforting, which is exactly what viewers want — to lose themselves in a thoughtless, happy distraction.

Each of Centineo’s three pivotal roles are charming young men with underlying family baggage or complexity — such as a deaf brother or an absent father — and a heart of gold. Centineo’s stardom has presented us with what has been lacking for so long in the rom-com world: an unproblematic crush that we can swoon over without having to overlook strong moral issues. In the 21st century, Jake Ryan of the wonderful, but insanely problematic, “Sixteen Candles” is not going to cut it. A movie that romanticizes a boy who gives his unconscious girlfriend to another boy is not the romantic comedy hero we deserve. Instead, this generation demands a boy who can walk the fine line of being proactive in pursuit while not being pushy and expectant that the girl will fall at his feet. And Noah Centineo has mastered doing just that. In every role, he carries an earnest charisma that gives his characters an air of sincerity. Now, not just prepubescent and teenage girls swoon. Everyone does.