A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is premised on the idea that a daughter lies to her mother, an ostensible shortcut to making them both feel better. After she first makes up "the perfect man," Holly finds she has to continue the lies, to the point that she and her mother exchange emails, with Holly posing as the idealized lover; this makes for some sweet conversations about dreams and goals, but also an awkward situation for adults in the audience, as parent and child are, after all, flirting. This movie includes briefly strained family relationships, as mother and daughter argue, and mother tells the story of the daughter's missing father (though she oddly never discusses the birth circumstances of a second, seven-year-old daughter). This movie also includes repeated references to sexual desire and play, primarily in the form of a gay bartender who makes wisecracks about various men. There are also jokes about breasts and 5th graders losing their virginity.
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What's the story?
THE PERFECT MAN centers on 16-year-old Holly (Hilary Duff), who worries that her mom, a baker named Jean (Heather Locklear), keeps moving their family from place to place. Apparently, mom only dates louses and cheats, whom she escapes by literally running away. When they move to New York City, Holly devises a plan to keep the family in place: she invents a "perfect man," based in part on romantic advice she solicits from Ben (Chris Noth), a handsome restaurateur who also happens to be the uncle to her new best friend Amy (Vanessa Lengies). Soon Holly is sending her mom flowers and writing her letters from the made up "Ben" to distract her from lumpy, well-meaning bread-baker Lenny (Mike O'Malley). Things get complicated when Jean finds out that Holly is having her own romantic troubles with a nice boy and comic book artist named Adam (Ben Feldman), and writes him emails while pretending to be Holly. The mixed-up identities are eventually sorted out, but not before some difficulties arise and both Jean and Holly endure some sadness and disappointment in one another.
Is it any good?
A mostly lighthearted, double-layered romantic comedy that deals with serious issues, The Perfect Man resembles previous Hilary Duff movies in tone and resolution. To grant Holly some space to express herself, the movie uses the Internet: she keeps a blog (called "Girl on the Move") and starts writing emails to Jean, supposedly from "Ben." This leads to a partly comic, partly strange situation where she's essentially flirting with her mother. While kids won't likely think much of this, the visualization of the idea -- mother and daughter at their computer screens, writing romantic notes to one another -- is at least odd.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difficult relationship between mother and child, as each wants to support the other, but neither is able to speak openly at first. How might open communication about basic concerns (daughter's upset by the family's repeated moves, mother's worry about being single) resolve tensions between them? How does the Internet/email both allow communication and limit it? How does the daughter's budding romance complicate her concerns for her mother and sister's well-being?
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