Ethics & Public Policy Center

Picture Perfect

Published in EPPC Online on August 1, 1997



Picture Perfect, directed by Glenn Gordon Caron, is a nicely crafted picture calculated to warm whatever organ it is that serves advertising executives in the office of a heart. Jennifer Aniston stars as Kate, a young and ambitious specimen of that breed whose hopes of love seem to rise no higher than bedding, in a free moment, the office Lothario, Sam (Kevin Bacon). To give you an idea of what a slimeball this gentleman is, I may remark that he thinks of Kate as “too nice” for him. “I can be bad,” she says pathetically. Unfortunately, she cannot be really bad but only boringly self-centered—like her boss (Kevin Dunn) and her best friend, Darcy (Ileana Douglas). At one point near the beginning Darcy exults in the riches that both she and Kate hope for from their careers in advertising: “God, we’re shallow!” she cries.

That about sums it up. The boss explains to her that her further advancement in the business will depend on her giving such hostages to fortune as a husband, kids, or large house or car payments, so that she will have to stop living like a college kid, free to jump to another firm. So Darcy invents a fiancé for Kate who is manufactured out of a young man, Nick (Jay Mohr) whom she has met once at a wedding. Well, the predictable happens—“It sounds like something out of ‘The Patty Duke Show’ doesn’t it?” as Kate rightly says to Nick—and Nick must be made to pretend to be her fiancé in good earnest. Of course, he turns out to be a nice guy, even beyond what advertising executives might consider as such. The existence of this suppositious fiancé suddenly makes Kate attractive to Sam, but the ending is equally predictable.

That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but I am afraid that Nick’s goodness, genuine though it may be (it is rather too easy that he is made a hero who rescues a little girl from a burning building), is not in itself enough to offset the utter unattractiveness of the other characters, who include Olympia Dukakis as Kate’s cliché mother, Rita, who wants her to get married and have babies. He goes along with all the elaborate ruses of this heartless woman to deceive her bosses, yet at the same time falls in love with her, while she is so obtuse as not to realize his qualities until he finds a rather artificial way to penetrate her façade of cold-hearted ambition. The story is told with real skill and with occasional flashes of wit, but at the end of it, instead of rejoicing at the lovers’ reunion, we cannot help feeling sorry for Nick.

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