When I saw the trailer for A Perfect Pairing I raised my fists in triumph and shouted, “What do we want? Mediocrity! Where do we want it? Streamed immediately into our eyeballs!” To be fair, mediocrity sounds too negative. What I really meant was a middle-of-the-road comfort-watch rom-com with a breathtaking background location and a Genetically Blessed Face (which is nowhere near as snappy a sounding chant), and this movie provides exactly that.
Lola Alvarez (Victoria Justice) is a very successful wine rep for Mythos Wine in Los Angeles. In fact, she’s probably single-handedly saving the company with her wine smarts, her business acumen, and her interpersonal skills. We meet her when she’s bringing some Very Important Chef back on board by explaining to him that a particular wine is a “passport to a travel experience.” Uh, not to be all picky about semantics, but isn’t that the whole point of passports? Anyway, the point is that Lola is really good at her job and she never stops go, go, going, which I realize is a whole new type of character for this kind of movie, so don’t let it throw you too much.
Lola is all into importing wine from this female wine collective from Uruguay, but the chef really wants her to get him access to Hazel Vaughn’s “Vaughn Family Wines” out of Australia. (As an aside, Lola continually talks about Uruguayan wine like NO ONE has ever heard of it before, which confuses the hell out of me because Uruguayan wine is already a thing?) Lola is at first deeply skeptical because Hazel Vaughn is some big business magnate or whatever and Lola is a Serious Wine Person who doesn’t do vanity labels, but she’s eventually convinced. The hitch is that Hazel Vaughn is away on her sheep farm for a month, so she’ll have to wait to pitch until after that. Lola mistakenly shares this insider information with her less successful but striving co-worker Audra (Lucy Durack, who is grossly wasted in this movie), who then, in order to save her ass from possibly getting canned by their absolutely horrendous boss Calder (Craig Horner), steals her pitch. Gasp! Lola very publicly quits her job (people in the meeting react so little that I’m pretty sure they’re all robots), decides to start her own business, mocks up a logo, finds Hazel Vaughn’s sheep farm, learns there’s also an Airbnb cottage on the farm, books a ticket to Australia, and takes off to convince the woman to sign with her not yet existent wine distribution company before her former employer can get to her. What a perfectly plausible plan!
Thanks to Lola’s father’s (Antonio Alvarez) nosy book group and some handy expositional writing, we also know that Lola went through a nasty break up with her ex-husband and hasn’t yet taken the big leap back into dating. And isn’t it so timely that just before she leaves her father says, “Your heart got broken, you pressed pause on your love life. It’s time to press play. You’ve got to learn to trust again.” Could this be foreshadowing? Mostly it’s so we know that in addition to being very Career Oriented, Lola is also somewhat Emotionally Unavailable ™ due to past heartbreak and (most importantly) she has big Trust Issues ™ . Please also note that Lola is Latina, but, like, generic Latina. She names her wine company Salud, her father’s name is Carlos, her last name is Alvarez, and her father has some colorful plates. Beyond that, it’s all pretty amorphous.
Off Lola goes to the sheep farm where she accidentally walks into Hazel Vaughn’s actual house where she’s found by the Genetically Blessed Max (Adam Demos) who tells her that “charm doesn’t work” on him. (Want to make a bet on that, buster?)
After a chance run-in with Hazel (Samantha Cain) where Lola unsuccessfully tries to pitch her not yet existent business, Lola does manage to finagle herself a job as a farmhand because they’re desperate and that is definitely how the world works, please do not question it or the entire plot will crumble before your very eyes. And you’re never ever going to guess who, out of all the people working on the farm, is assigned to do some one-on-one training with her? Ha! No, I’m kidding. You will absolutely guess that it’s Max, his rugged face, and his well-toned upper body!! Hallelujah! Max is dedicated to his work, the land, the simple life, button down shirts with the sleeves rolled up to show his forearms, jeans that sit well on his hips, his stoic expression, being absolutely set in his ways, harboring a Life Altering Secret, and giving Lola some pretty good longing looks.
Lola is very, very good at a lot of things, but she is just a mess when it comes to farm work. Of course she has the wrong shoes, though they are not as bad as women’s shoes often are in rom-coms. Is that progress or just current fashions? (She claims it’s because she was only going to be there for a couple of days, which I think, it’s fair that she didn’t bring proper clothes for mending fences and mucking out stalls, but who the hell flies all the way to Australia for two days? Couldn’t that kind of jet lag literally kill you? As long as she’s there shouldn’t she try to visit some other vineyards at least? But I’m getting off track.) She also does things like use all the hot water and overload the circuit breaker, which does nothing to ingratiate her with her more seasoned bunkmates, and they make bets on how long she’ll last. But what is Lola? Determined! Plucky! Resourceful! Always in a full face of makeup! This sheep farm is going to be under her spell in no time flat, plus it turns out she knows how to fix a hot water heater. She is so unbelievably capable that it’s a real humdinger of mystery why she’s so incapable when it comes to the very specific tasks of farm work! Could it be because it’s so dang charming? Oops. Mystery solved.
Will Lola obnoxiously ask for a latte the first morning at the farm when it’s obvious there’s only going to be coffee? Of course! Will she later “educate” people about coffee like Australia doesn’t have amazing coffee shops and like she and her dad weren’t drinking coffee from some basic drip coffee maker? I’ll let you guess!
Will the truck that she and Max use to do chores on the farm break down a lot causing them to walk great distances through gorgeous landscapes while talking about their lives? Absolutely! Will Max save her from a deadly snake by scooping her up in his arms only for their eyes to connect in a meaningful way? Oh, you betcha! Will I snort, but also be somewhat beguiled? That’s why I watch! Will there be a scene where Max is shirtless and Lola peers at him and makes audible sounds of appreciation in case we don’t get the message that he’s Very Attractive? Indeed! Will she also constantly comment on the beauty of the landscape (not a euphemism)? She will! I don’t know why there’s a fear of people enjoying things silently in movies like these. We’re not all suddenly going to lose interest and run away. There’s a middle ground between some art-house movie where no one speaks for 85 of the 90-minutes and this where no one ever stops speaking.
Anyway, my point is that everything you think is going to happen in this movie is going to happen. In fact, you can probably gauge it down to the minute, which is absolutely the charm of this kind of movie. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I would like to register my displeasure with the fact that there was not a single unexpected drenching rainstorm in which the leads got caught. I don’t particularly care whether or not drenching rainstorms are part of the climate in Australia at this time of year. It’s not like anyone is striving for verisimilitude! Also, please note that this is a super duper incredibly chaste movie. There’s a whole part where Lola and Max go camping together and just before they go to sleep Max does a bed check and finds a snake in Lola’s sleeping bag and this movie is so chaste that I’m not even sure if it was meant as euphemism for Max’s snake maybe getting into her sleeping bag later that night.
All joking aside, though, Lola is shown as an independent, capable, tenacious person who learns and grows from her experience on the sheep farm, but it’s not solely from her interactions with Max. She has actual conversations with other characters who teach her about the importance of a work-life balance. In fact, if anything she’s the one who influences the greater change in him than the other way around. It’s a big shift from the rom-coms that are predominantly written by men. Lola even makes a group of female friends on the farm with whom she has a supportive relationship. Though there is still the sticky subject of how much of her appeal is based on the tried and true formula of klutzy charm mixed with talents considered stereotypically male and a childlike giddiness around things like animals. It still fits squarely within the usual male fantasy framework of a woman who is strong, but still just soft enough to need a man. I’m not because of that saying we need to chuck out all characters like Lola per se, but we certainly need to be aware of what ideals they’re feeding into while we watch them.
This movie is not perfect—though it is a good upgrade from Adam Demos’s previous foray into Netflix rom-com-dom, Falling Inn Love—but when you’re looking for something that will comfort your eyes with verdant landscapes, some stunning sunsets, and an impressive expanse of masculine musculature, while soothing your brain with a storyline that hews to the rom-com canon, well, you might say this could be a Perfect P— No? Too much? Fair enough.