I have a friend who occasionally forces me to watch movies outside of my usual comfort zone, usually lame romantic comedies. That explains the sudden review for Picture Perfect, a 1997 Jennifer Aniston movie I’m sure very few people have thought about since its 1997 release (and for good reason).

Before we get into the review, let’s just think about this for a moment – can you imagine trying to pitch a romantic comedy today where the two male leads are Kevin Bacon (as the hunky stud-muffin, none the less) and Jay Mohr? I’m not even sure it was a good idea back in ’97, yet this movie was still made. I guess that goes to show the power of Aniston during the height of her Friends fame.

I also suppose that’s why the filmmakers thought audiences would accept spending 100 minutes watching Anniston play one of the most unlikable lead characters in cinematic history. Her character, Kate, is a single woman working at an advertising firm. Despite being one of their most talented employees, she can’t seem to land the promotion she deserves. Her boss helpfully explains this is BECAUSE she is single and has no attachments – he just can’t quite rationalize giving an important account to someone not completely dependent on their job in order to pay off debts or keep a significant other. That actually makes a weird sort of sense if you think about it, although it’s pretty ridiculous that he would actually verbalize this, and even more ridiculous that he would then prove it by IMMEDIATELY promoting her after he is mistakenly led to believe she is, in fact, engaged.

The mishap involves an innocent photo recently taken of her and Nick (Jay Mohr), a man she only met briefly because he was hired to film a wedding she just attended. Still, after her friend tells their boss the photo is actually her and her fiancée, Kate decides to go along with the lie, instantly selling her morals and self-esteem – which just seemed so important to her – down the toilet. But she has another good reason to live with the lie besides the promotion – it also helps her finally hook up with office hunk Sam (Bacon), who has never been interested in her before because she seemed like too much of a “good girl.” But now that Sam thinks she is cheating on her fiancée with him, he’s all about it, and Kate is more than happy to further perpetuate the lie in order to keep making Bacon, if you know what I’m saying.

So far, Kate is an obvious fraud, but you can ALMOST forgive her because she is only screwing over other terrible people with awful morals (except, of course, for her sweet, doting mother, who doesn’t really deserve any of the lies her daughter feeds her throughout this movie). But things get worse when Nick suddenly becomes semi-famous after saving a little girl from a fire. Her boss now demands to meet Nick, and this is when Kate goes from being just annoying to downright unpleasant. Obviously, there is an easy way out for Kate here, as she could just say at any minute that her and Nick have unfortunately broken up. But, instead, she arranges a meeting with Nick, explaining the situation and then offering him money to pretend to be her fiancée at a company dinner, where they will get into a fight and “break up” in front of everyone. Nick refuses the money, instead admitting he was hoping Kate would get in touch with him anyway, and agreeing to do it for free.

Anyone with a brain would hear this and realize Nick is sorta sweet for this girl, but Kate is either too stupid to get it or, more likely, just doesn’t care. She continues to play with his emotions by having him temporarily move in with her, during which time she forces him to spend all his free-time studying up on details of her life (though she refuses to learn anything about him because, as she puts it, she already made up a fictional version of him anyway), and then leaves him there while she goes out to meet up with her boy-toy, Sam. This is our heroine, folks.

Nick eventually admits to Kate that he likes her, and expresses hesitation at going through with her plan, but she essentially tells him to screw off and honor their original agreement. So, although he really doesn’t want to, Nick still does what she asks and pretends to turn into a horrible, cheating asshole at the dinner. You can tell Nick, who is clearly the nicest guy in the universe, is uncomfortable with this, and you can’t help but feel bad for him as everyone in the restaurant looks at him as if he’s a monster. But he still goes though with it because he truly wants to help this girl he has somehow fallen for, and doesn’t even mind that he is just another pawn in her destructive web of lies. Kate thanks Nick for this by promptly going straight to Sam’s place to have sex. Except Sam, after discovering she is no longer with Nick, predictably loses interest in her. Despite the fact that Kate has ALWAYS known this is why Sam is into her, the movie treats this moment as if it’s some sort of big epiphany for her.

So, you’re probably thinking that she runs back to Nick and admits she’s made a big mistake, right? Nope. Instead, because her boss tells her he doesn’t want to see Nick around anymore, she gives Nick the money he never wanted in the first place (“here’s your money, whore,” she might as well say) and effectively sends him packing back to where he came from. Once again, this is the woman that we’re supposed to be rooting for. I feel like I need to keep reminding you of that.

Eventually, Kate DOES see the error of her ways after discovering that Nick used the money to buy a sentimental gift for her before leaving town. In a moment that I guess is supposed to be her big redemption, Kate confesses everything to both her boss and Sam, and tries to quit. But her boss is moved by her honesty, and convinces her to go find Nick and put things right. No, that seriously happens. At no point, by the way, does he say “well, I guess I was sort of responsible for this since I stupidly told you I wouldn’t promote you unless you had a man.” Nor does she, after he refuses her resignation, tell him to stick his job where the sun don’t shine. Either of those would have slightly helped the movie in my eyes. There is also no scene where Kate tells off Sam – actually, the two have a rather tender final scene, in which Sam seems flattered that she lied just to get with him, and tells her to call him if she ever decides to explore her bad side again. Do you think she tells him to fuck off? Of course not…instead, she implies she might take him up on that offer. Ugh, I hate this bitch.

So, anyway, she treks off to go get Nick back, and even here – in the scene where we are finally supposed to be fully on her side – she still comes across terribly because she decides the perfect time to confess her feelings to Nick is WHILE he is filming a friend’s wedding (his job, remember). As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no reason why she couldn’t just wait until the wedding was over, but instead she makes a big scene, interrupting the vows and actually keeping Nick from filming the couple saying “I do” and sharing their first kiss. Well, I’m sure those two didn’t REALLY want that special moment captured on film for all eternity, right?

This is an ugly, hateful film, populated by shallow, selfish and disgusting characters. To make matters worse, the ONE likable character is played by Jay Mohr, in a performance that can only charitably be called “dreadful.” I’ve seen Mohr do decent work in the past, be he is ridiculously bad in this one. The next time somebody rips on Keanu Reeves or Shia Lebeouf around me, I am going to point them to this film to see what a bad performance really looks like. Mohr literally spends nearly every second he is on screen simply staring straight ahead (had he recently broken his neck or something?) with an empty, oblivious stare on his face. Then again, maybe that’s almost appropriate, since I too would probably feel like a deer-in-the-headlights if faced with the self-centered wrath of Anniston’s character. Even though you know it won’t happen, you really want the movie to end with Nick punching Kate right in the face and telling her to go to hell. Actually, more than that, you just want the movie to end, period.

This review was originally posted at Trevor Likes Movies on July 8th, 2011.

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