Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect. 3 Arts Entertainment. 1997.

Before watching the movie:

I know pretty much nothing about this movie. I am informed that the premise involves the main character faking a fiance for apparent life stability to get promoted at work, which I hope gets a little more justified, because anywhere else will look at your job as the sign of how stable your life is. Interesting to note that this 90s boss wants a female employee to be engaged though, since only a few decades earlier marriage was seen as a career-ending move for women.

I will also note that the handwritten-style title, particularly when displayed in white, strongly reminds me of Friends, which I wouldn’t doubt was intentional, this being a late 90s movie starring a Friends alum.

After watching the movie:

Kate is a brilliant advertising concept writer hoping to get an account executive position, but Mr. Mercer is of the belief that her unattached lifestyle of no committed relationships, mortgages, or car loans, gives him no reason to think she might have any kind of commitment to the company or anything to lose by going to a competitor. Kate would also like to improve her position with her colleague Sam, who only ever sees her as a friend, and get her mother to stop worrying over her and her procreative status. In order to get Kate the job she deserves, her friend Rita suggests to Mr. Mercer that Kate is engaged to the videographer she was photographed with at a wedding, and the lie unlocks doors for her. She gets that promotion, it turns out Sam is only interested in illicit affairs, and her mom is much more ready to believe stories about “my fiance Nick” than the truth about why she never wants to talk. But when the bosses invite Kate and Nick to dinner, Kate has to track down the real Nick and convince him to play the part, at least for long enough to publicly break up. Only he really does have feelings for her, and he’s such a great guy and all.

This story comes very close to being an inversion of the standard romcom “breaking off a dull committed relationship that’s obviously a mistake for something new and exciting” in Sam. There are times when Sam almost seems like not a mistake. Sure, he only noticed her when she was unavailable, but once that was passed, he has multiple scenes where he describes feeling more connected to her than with his usual affairs, and it almost seems like they could make it work if the fiction were dropped. Only once Nick actually enters the picture, Sam demonstrates why he’s a mistake both with and without Kate being in a relationship with someone else.

I’m a little curious about why Nick is a videographer rather than a photographer, since he seems to operate more like a wedding photographer, and no mention is really made of editing the footage (to be fair, professional photography needs plenty of post work, just not nearly as much as cutting video). I suspect in early drafts he may have been, only they needed to solve the problem of why there would be pictures of the wedding photographer, the solution being that he’s the videographer, and instead of having a photographer, the couple gave all the guests cameras. Regardless, I note that Nick and Kate are both in creative fields, which is a trope that allows screenwriters to write about the experiences of creatives without writing about screenwriters. Actors and for some reason architects are also popular.

I feel like Nick is somewhere close to a very good balance between being the perfect sensitive, stable, giving romantic partner and being a whole person with flaws that make him more than a doormat. He’s a caring and helpful guy, but when his own feelings are trodden upon badly enough, he’s quite capable of speaking up or rebelling. He’s built up to be exactly what a thirtysomething woman should want to settle down with, but he refuses to be a prop, and that’s what keeps him interesting. Slightly.

Where most romcoms take the approach that adults are overcompromised and need to rediscover a youthful spark, it’s rather refreshing to see a more grown up story. A childish lie got Kate through an arbitrary gatekeeping measure, but what she really needs is rather more senisble than the fantasy she’d been chasing. That’s a message that’s undervalued today.

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One thought on “Picture Perfect

  1. Valerie June 11, 2017 / 10:09 pm

    In the 90s, videography seems to have been hot, the latest thing. And the guests may or may not have been given cameras – that was a new thing too – but wedding videos were trendy. i think at the time, videographer not photographer wouldn’t have attracted any comment.

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