Opened: Aug 1, 1997 | Rated: PG-13
The best romantic comedies are the ones that make you want to go home and cuddle with someone.
The best romantic comedies make you feel like you're on a first date with the characters, the kind of date where you just can't stop staring and talking and flirting. The kind of date where everything goes right and you spend the entire next day wearing a giddy, first-kiss kind of sublime smile.
"Picture Perfect" is that kind of romantic comedy.
Co-written and directed by Glenn Gordon Caron, the driving force behind the devilishly romantic TV series "Moonlighting," the movie has a similar ironic sense of humor and a quick-witted heroine in Jennifer Aniston (TV's "Friends"), to whom snappy dialogue comes naturally.
Aniston plays Kate, a struggling advertising director for whom being single has become a burden.
Her boss (Kevin Dunn) won't promote her because she is without responsibilities that could tie her to her job -- no mortgage, no car payments, no relationship to keep her in New York.
What's worse, Sam (Kevin Bacon), the man she has the hots for, seems only interested in women who are spoken for, even when she throws herself at him.
Then her best friend and co-worker Darcy (Illeana Douglass) flashes around the office a picture of Kate sitting on the lap of a cute guy and claiming it's Kate's fiancé. In fact it's a guy she met for about two minutes at a wedding when she caught the bouquet and he caught the garter.
This deception gets Kate the desired promotion and gets Sam in her bed (even though the audience never really understands what she sees in him), but of course sooner or later she's going to have to produce this fictitious fiancé.
The premise, admittedly, is not particularly fresh, but Caron's script is full of little gems of comedy that forgive covering this familiar territory.
"I'm having some eggs frozen next week, OK mom?" Kate tells her relentlessly offspring-minded mother (the perfectly-cast Olympia Dukakis).
"Great, I can tell people I'm having a grandcicle," Dukakis replies in her best snappy old broad tone.
"Picture Perfect" is so full of subtle gags that many of them fly by with hardly any notice: At the wedding Kate is seated at a table with two nuns and two lesbians. It has nothing to do with the story -- I don't even know what the nuns were doing there -- but it's a quick sight gag for those who are paying attention.
Kate's imaginary relationship begins to unravel when Nick (Jay Mohr), the guy in the photo, becomes a local hero after saving a little girl from a fire. Suddenly everyone wants to meet him. Kate is forced to track him down and offers him $1,000 to play her lover for one night and stage a very public break up.
The inevitable backfire comes when Nick finds himself completely smitten with Kate.
He doesn't try to come on to her, although he's falling in love. He happily sleeps on her couch for the weekend while they complete her ruse. But she's so wrapped up in her job and her purely physical affair with Sam that she hardly notices him until he steals her heart with a warm, romantic gesture of genuine sentimentality.
The casting of Mohr, best known for his role as Tom Cruise's rival agent in "Jerry Maguire", is the key to "Picture Perfect's" romantic home run. He steals the movie as a low-key, sweet guy who is so dumb struck by Kate that he just keeps tripping over his tongue.
It's the kind of part every guy who isn't a Don Juan can identify with, and the kind of guy every lonely gal wishes she could find -- one with a heart.