In The Perfect Find, Netflix's new romantic comedy from Numa Perrier, Jenna (Gabrielle Union) feels positively plucked from the type of pre-code romance typically helmed by an Ernst Lubitsch or William Wyler. Brazen, charming, successful and in charge of her career yet frustrated with a world of corporate, patriarchal social dynamics she has to persistently push up against, Jenna wouldn't be out of place in a score of old feel-good flicks.
It isn't just that the fashion designer is enamored by Hollywood history, or that she and her much younger paramour Eric (the wildly sensual Keith Powers) bond over an uncommon knowledge of Black cinema history, it's that Perrier infuses the whole film with a breezy je ne sais quoi that has been woefully absent from the genre's past decade or so of recent offerings.
The plot itself is simple. Jenna is a renowned fashion designer whose career is upended after the sudden break up from her ten year relationship to famous mogul Brian (D.B. Woodside). In a desperate attempt to revitalize her life and career, she crawls to an old rival, Darcy (Gina Torres, who is hilarious in her wicked vengefulness), for a new job. There, she meets Eric, and the two quickly start a hush-hush romance; Eric is Darcy's son.
The film is a lovely mix of old and new. The old: references to King Vidor's Hallelujah (1929), the career of pioneering Black actor Nina Mae McKinney, a roaring twenties style jazz score, and a panoply of fleshed-out, amusing side characters led by Aisha Hinds, La La Anthony and Janet Hubert. The new: an unapologetically sexual lead female and little animated touches that lift this from the usual Netflix factory fare into something decidedly refreshing in both its honesty and vulnerability.
If anything, the film sputters in the third act by pivoting to sudden revelations that threaten the first and second act's easy quality, but there's a lot of joy to be had here. The Perfect Find is nothing less than a reclamation of a dead-on-arrival genre for a newer audience.