Screenplay : Arleen Sorkin & Paul Slansky and Glenn Gordon Caron
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 1997
Stars : Jennifer Aniston (Kate Mosley), Jay Mohr (Nick), Kevin Bacon (Sam Mayfair), Olympia Dukakis (Rita Mosley), Illeana Douglas (Darcy O'Neal), Kevin Dunn (Mr. Mercer), Anne Twomey (Sela)
Much like this summer's earlier romantic comedy "My Best Friend's Wedding," "Picture Perfect" chronicles the adventures of an attractive, single, late-twenty-ish heroine who lies, connives, condescends, and abuses people to get what she wants. In "My Best Friend's Wedding," Julia Roberts wanted the man. In "Picture Perfect," Jennifer Aniston's Kate wants not just a man, but also a top-level job at her high-price New York advertising agency.
The one who gets manipulated here is Nick (Jay Mohr), a extremely sweet-natured guy who is happy making a living videotaping weddings and birthday parties. He gets caught up in Kate's scheme when she leads the ad agency boss, Mr. Mercer (Kevin Dunn), to believe they are engaged, when in actuality, they met only once at a wedding. Kate does this because Mr. Mercer doesn't like promoting people in the agency unless he sees some form of stability in their lives. As he says to Kate, "You live like you're still in college."
So Kate lives the fantasy life that she has a fiancee named Nick in Massachusetts. This also fits in nicely with her desire to be with Sam (Kevin Bacon), a long-haired womanizing ad exec. who only wants to be with "bad" girls. Kate is never appealing to him until he thinks she's engaged, because then their sleeping together takes on an added dimension of infidelity.
Meanwhile, Nick has no idea any of this is going on until he accidentally becomes famous by rescuing a little girl in a fire. Next thing he knows, Kate is offering him money to come down to New York to have an obligatory dinner with her and her boss. Her big plan is that they show up at dinner pretending to be engaged, then stage a big fight and break up. That, according to Kate, will make everything perfect.
Of course, it doesn't, and this movie's by-the-numbers plot takes every obligatory path, and even has the "Big Apologetic Speech" at the end. The screenplay, by novices Arleen Sorkin and Paul Slansky along with director Glenn Gordon Caron, spends most of its time lifting ideas and scenes from better movies such as "Green Card," and "Terms of Endearment." Much of it feels like an episode of "Three's Company," but unfortunately it goes on for almost two hours instead of just half an hour.
As Kate, Jennifer Aniston makes a bid to move from prime time TV and secondary movie roles to the position of lead actress. She shows real potential, but next time she needs to find a director and cinematographer who aren't so obsessed with her breasts. Every scene in "Picture Perfect" involves her either wearing a skin-tight shirt, an extremely low cut dress, or nothing but a bra. Her cleavage should have taken second billing in the opening credits.
Jay Mohr makes a amiable if not unrealistically nice guy to Kevin Bacon's thoroughly slimy Sam. Unfortunately, the movie chooses to view Bacon's character as not so bad, even though he can only derive pleasure from stealing women from other men. To me, this is a serious character flaw that makes him a rather despicable individual, but the script fleshes him out as a cool guy who simply has a slight weakness.
"Picture Perfect" is not a bad movie, but it's not that good, either. If anything, it will go down as simply forgettable. Really good movies burn themselves into the collective imagination, as do really bad movies. Movies like this one just sort of float around for a few weeks like a thin cloud, then slowly dissipate. Most people probably won't even remember it was in theaters when it shows up on the video rack three months from now.
©1997 James Kendrick