Picture Perfect Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

I don't want you to date me. I don't want you to marry me. I don't want you to have kids with me. I just want you to break up with me.

"Picture Perfect", starring the great-haired one, Jennifer Aniston of "Friends", and directed by former "Moonlighting" executive producer Glenn Gordon Caron, is a by-the-book romantic comedy. It's a nice date movie, but it doesn't leave an impression on you.

I'm twenty-eight... I'm a big girl now!
Well I'm fifty-four, and I'll be dead soon!

It has all the elements off your fill-in-the-blank romantic comedy. Kate Mosley (Aniston) is a brilliant copy writer in Mercer Advertising, a career woman, 28, who is too busy at work to get good dates (as if), to the chagrin of her neurotic mother (Olympia Dukakis) who continues to harp her on getting married and having a child. She carries a torch for the stud of the office, Sam Mayfair (Kevin Bacon, further cementing his connections to everyone else in Hollywood in six degrees or less), but he spurns her advances, saying that she's 'not bad enough for him'-- he only sleeps with women who are married or have boyfriends. One weekend, she goes to a friend's wedding and comes to know Nick (Jay Mohr), the videographer for the wedding. From the minute they first meet, it's obvious that Nick likes her. Later on, during the bouquet toss, Kate is handed the bouquet and has a Polaroid taken with Nick, who caught the garter.

Kate, we work in advertising! I didn't lie... I sold!

When she is turned down for a promotion by Mr. Mercer (Kevin Dunn), who cites the lack of any ties that will ensure she shows up to work the next day (everyone else is either married or has a mortgage on a house that they can't afford, ensuring that they just won't leave Mercer Advertising on a lark). Her friend-with-the-best-intentions, Darcy (Illeana Douglas), then shows Mr. Mercer the Polaroid taken at the wedding and says that Nick is her fiancee. Mr. Mercer, seeing that Kate does have her life together, gives her the deserved promotion, and Kate perpetuates the fraud by not disputing Darcy's story (the foundation of many romantic comedies-- have the protagonist pretend to be someone they're not and become caught up in the psychological trap of competitive escalation).

That's a fantastic dress!
I swear there was more of it when I was in the store.

Once news of her engagement circulates the office, Sam takes an interest in Kate, since being with her now holds an element of danger-- and they become lovers in an immoral relationship that really isn't as immoral as Sam believes. Things become really complicated when Nick, still unaware of his alleged engagement to Kate, rescues a child from a burning building and becomes a hero, his face plastered across the front pages of newspapers. Mr. Mercer is so astounded by Nick's act of heroism that he invites Kate and Nick to dinner. To bring an end to this charade, Kate tracks Nick down and hires him to pretend to be her fiancee. She hatches a plan to start a fight at the dinner so that they can break up in front of everyone. However, Nick is smitten with Kate, and may not go through with the plan. What's a girl to do?

He really wanted me... and I really wanted him. So we slept together. We had sex, Mom. The really dirty kind.
There there... that's enough of that... now tell me what really happened.

"Picture Perfect" doesn't break any new ground in the genre. The ho-hum direction is what you'd expect to see in any movie of this ilk (cue soft romantic ballad, intercut close-up between Nick and Kate in soft lighting as she talks about a special childhood memory, yah-dah-yah-dah-yah-dah), and it lacks the goofy charm of the irreverent musings of "My Best Friend's Wedding", the romantic comedy that's doing gangbusters right now. The main problem with "Picture Perfect" is that the plot requires the main characters to act irrationally to drive the story and create the comedic elements (Roger Ebert's 'idiot theory'). On the acting side, Jennifer Aniston is suited for the role, conveying the mannerisms of the entrapped, much like Sandra Bullock's performance in "While You Were Sleeping" (yet another romantic comedy about a protagonist passing herself off as someone else, only to fall in love with someone else than the one she was after). Jay Mohr manages to excel with the dearth of material he is given to work with, and the softer side he shows in PP is a startling contrast to the snake he played in "Jerry Maguire". There are a few memorable moments in the film, such as the hilarious 'big fight' during dinner with Mr. Mercer... but overall, "Picture Perfect" is nothing to write home about.

What if I didn't pick a fight with you tonight?

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