Just when you thought the most Hallmark-y movie of all time had already been made, along comes A Perfect Pairing — a film about a go-getter wine connoisseur who treats herself to a stay-cation at an idyllic Australian ranch, (complete with a hunky Australian ranch-hand, of course), in an effort to convince the head of a wine empire to be her new company’s first client. The sprightly self-starter in question is Lola (Victoria Justice), and the hunky (oh – and I forgot to mention mysterious) Australian is Max (Adam Demos, whose steaminess already stole our hearts once before in Netflix’s Sex/Life).
Stuart McDonald’s A Perfect Pairing contains all of the hallmarks of a successful Hallmark flick: an unlikely small town replete with quirky characters, at least one delightfully frustrating almost-kiss moment, and, perhaps most importantly, a satisfying roadmap of predictability. And while “predictability” might be a scarlet letter for most filmmakers, it offers this film the perfect amount of breezy watchability that it calls for.
Indeed, A Perfect Pairing is expertly set up with these qualities in a way that maximizes the possibility for a cathartic, happy ending. We want Lola to succeed from the first moments of the film. She answers to Calder (Craig Horner), AKA the world’s most punchable boss, and she’s epically betrayed by her so-called best friend Audra (Lucy Durack) within the first ten minutes, but we’re also in her corner because of Justice. She offers an effortlessly endearing sense of optimism to her character alongside an undeniable savviness that not a lot of Hallmark women are afforded.
And if you aren’t hooked by the this-gal-just-can’t-catch-a-break setup, then you’re bound to be intrigued by Lola’s move to Australia, and all the messiness that comes with it. Indeed, McDonald knows exactly what he’s doing when he introduces Max as a troubled, closed-off, and impossibly good-looking bloke who isn’t initially a huge fan of Lola and her big-city ways. And Max isn’t the only hurdle Lola is faced with down under: the head of the wine company she is attempting to land, Hazel (Samantha Tolj), isn’t interested in her running the show. Oh, and to attempt to win Hazel over, Lola agrees to train as a temporary sheep farmer. Does that come with its fair shares of blunders and faux pas? You betcha.
It’s hard to think of a formula that gets audiences hooked more effectively than presenting a likable protagonist with an onslaught of immeasurable hurdles. And, while this might indeed be the obvious formula for a rom-com, that doesn’t really matter all too much when it’s done right. And McDonald and writers Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett? Well, they certainly seem to have their fingers on the rom-com pulse with A Perfect Pairing.
The pitch-perfect rom-com spirit of A Perfect Pairing is strengthened by its gloriously campy performances. In addition to emphasizing Lola’s over-zealous attitude with intensely expressive delivery of almost every line, Justice also adds a slapstick element to her performance. And with every tumble into a pile of manure, or accidental dumping of sheep feed, we are able to lean into the lighthearted, fun-loving nature of this rom-com world just a little more. It doesn’t hurt, either, when a shirtless Max does heavy-duty ranch-work, and Demos moves hilariously like he’s in a Burberry perfume ad.
Given A Perfect Pairing’s breezy, overwrought, and otherworldly nature, the fact that most of the film looks like it was manufactured on a set isn’t exactly the end of the world. But there’s no doubt that it can be distracting at times – for example, when a glorious pink sunset looks like it’s coming straight from a projector. This distraction is especially notable because the landscape of Australia makes up so much of the fabric of the film. There is a persistent notion that this is some sublime continent where, unlike Lola’s hometown of California, just about anything is possible. But this sentiment is just a little bit hard to buy when it doesn’t really feel like the characters are in Australia at all.
Still, A Perfect Pairing manages to come out on top despite the handicaps of its Netflix strings. Lola is a refreshingly inspirational female character whose arc suggests that you don’t have to give up your ambition, or sacrifice any part of yourself, to be good enough for a man. And, perhaps most important of all: it’s just a rockin’ good time of a watch that is bound to fulfill your rom-com needs. Sure, there are going to be moments, (probably a lot of them), where you find yourself with a gnarly case of déjà vu from tropes you’ve seen a hundred times before. But hey, cliches exist for a reason. So if you can find it within yourself to forgive the familiarity of it all and not expect to spend an hour and forty minutes walking on untrodden land, then you’re in for some serious entertainment.