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Picture Perfect

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Picture Perfect

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon
Director: Glenn Gordon Caron
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: August 1997
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Jay Mohr, Olympia Dukakis, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn, Faith Prince, Anne Twomey

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Kate Mosley was a highly creative, but relatively unsuccessful employee of Mercer Advertising until her friend fixed her up with a fiance. With a fiance, she is believed by her boss to be less likely to leave town to go to work for one of his competitors and hence reliable enough to work on the big Gulden's mustard account. Afterall, it was her idea that snagged the client in the first place.

Now she has a fiance, Kate has become attractive to the office wolf. Kevin Bacon, with the best hair in the movie, plays a hunk known as Sam Mayfair. He does little apparent work and spends most of his time romancing women who are already involved. Kate tells him that, "you're always going to be the guy at the restaurant, who, when he gets what he ordered, decides he wants what the other guy has instead." Commitment is Sam's greatest fear, and dangerous liaisons his prime turn-on. He is even more handsome than Kate is beautiful so they seem eminently well matched.

Thanks to Nick, her fiance, she wins both the account assignment and Sam. But there is a tiny problem. Nick is a facade. He lives only in a picture taken almost by accident when she met him at a wedding. Their life together, immortalized in the photo of their chance encounter, has no basis in reality.

Written by Arleen Sorkin, and Paul Slansky and Glenn Gordon Caron, the script of PICTURE PERFECT takes the typical romantic comedy formula and puts enough spin on it to make it fresh. The intelligent dialog has plenty of funny one-liners, but the film's beauty revolves around the effective character development of the lead. Kate's would-be lovers and her challenges at work make for an involving tapestry. As directed by Glenn Gordon Caron, the director of the excellent but relatively unknown CLEAN AND SOBER, the film focuses everything on Kate and lets her set the show's pacing.

Kate is played by Jennifer Aniston, a star of SHE'S THE ONE and the TV series "Friends." With her terrific looks, her happy and vivacious demeanor and her tenacity, Aniston gives a compelling performance as a hyperactive career woman, while making Kate an incredibly likable character.

The show opens with a semi-shocking sequence, the upshot of which has Kate throwing out the guy with whom her mother had fixed her up. (Kate's mother is played with great gusto by Olympia Dukakis.) "I feel like I can be honest with you," says the guy as he is being shown the door. "You should ignore these feelings," she replies before she shuts the door.

Kate's best friend, Darcy, played in a minor role by Illeana Douglas, has been "married since birth." Darcy is the one who devises the fake picture stratagem. Their boss, Mr. Mercer, played with a cherubic smile by Kevin Dunn, is full of advice based on his career. "You dress for the job you want, not the one you have," he lectures Kate as part of his explanation of why she was not chosen to be on the Gulden's account. But shortly thereafter he sees the infamous picture, and Kate's career skyrockets.

Kate at first resists, but most of the show finds her playing her fake love life for all it is worth. Her fairy-tale boyfriend and she have an intricate imaginary life together. As expected, the big complication comes when she is asked to produce Nick, underplayed with a big shaggy-dog look by Jay Mohr. As anyone who has studied comedy knows, this means that Kate and/or Nick will fall in love with the other. How that plays out makes up the last half of the film.

Toward the end the story turns bittersweet. The inevitable scene where Kate tells the truth is clumsily written and delivered. The ending itself is exactly what you would expect from a typical romantic comedy. One would have wished that the writers could have come up with something fresher. A hard edged surprise ending would have been better but would probably have been dropped after the first test screening. Even if the ending is a disappointment, Kate is a fun person to hang out with for a couple of hours.

PICTURE PERFECT runs 1:45. It is rated PG-13 for sexual situations and language. The film would be fine for kids around twelve and up. I recommend the film to you and give it ***.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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