In the Universal Studios film The Perfect Man, Heather Locklear plays Jean, a single mom bedeviled by failed romantic relationships. A perpetual fugitive from her failures yet equally eternally optimistic, she moves her family from town to town, following job after job, hoping merely for things to work out at some point. Her standards are not impossibly high.
Her oldest daughter Holly, played by Hilary Duff, is the true cynic of the bunch. Her idea is that perfect man doesn’t exist—but if she could just convince her mom that he did, the family wouldn’t be forced to move yet again simply because her mom settled for far too little. So to keep the wolves at bay, rather literally, she invents the perfect man for her mother.
The man that Holly invents turns out to be pretty darn terrific, if not actually perfect. The man on whom Holly’s invention is based turns out to be even more so.
Sure, The Perfect Man is just romantic summer fluff. So we probably shouldn’t take that suggestion of perfection too seriously. Or should we?
In recent interviews, Locklear and Duff offered their personal opinions about that quest. “Perfect doesn’t really exist,” said Locklear. “There’s no perfect man, there’s no perfect woman or person… It’s just people who have their imperfections, which is more exciting.”
Duff was quick to offer a clarification, observing that “there’s people who can be perfect for each other.” To which Locklear responded: “But not perfect woman, perfect man.”
This attitude certainly plays itself out in the context of the movie. Neither Holly nor Jean, certainly, are perfect. And along the path to the movie’s conclusion, Jean comes across plenty of guys like Lenny, the earnest if misguided baker who pursues Jean. Not that there’s anything “wrong with the Lenny’s of the world,” says Locklear. Duff’s words of advice for guys like Lenny? “Stop trying so hard.”
But maybe trying too hard (in general) isn’t really the problem. As C.S. Lewis observed in Mere Christianity, “the only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.” At the same time, Lewis says, we can be confident that perfection of any kind “will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help.”
So Locklear is right, certainly. No man, no woman, can be perfect. And even with God’s help, Lewis goes on to say, the next step toward perfection may only be the ability to “ask forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again.”
But that’s a heck of a lot better than settling for too little, isn’t it? We just need to stop trying so hard all on our own.
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