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Picture Perfect Redeems RomComs

One day, I will get Throwback Thursday out on Thursday. One day, I swear. I thought this week would be the week, but the creative mind cannot be put into a structure (apparently). I would just start calling it Flashback Fridays if that wouldn’t mean that they’d end up coming on Saturdays…

I was going to do a double feature today, turn of the century romcoms with Wedding Planner and Two Weeks Notice. These movies have several things in common – they’re both leaving netflix today, and I truly, deeply despise them. Good riddance, get off my Netflix suggested screen.

While watching The Wedding Planner I thought that what I truly hate about these movies (there’s so many reasons actually…I’ll just stick with the relevant one) is that the lovers in these movies do terrible things. Matthew McConaughey considers cheating on his fiancé because he’s unsatisfied in the relationship, though if he had only had that honest talk with his fiancé he would have discovered that she was unhappy too and he would have done the respectable thing. But no, he has to carry on all cat and mouse with the wedding planner behind her back (and occasionally right to her face). I didn’t actually get around to watching Two Weeks Notice, but from what I remember Hugh Grant is a needy bastard who turns Sandra Bullock from a lawyer to an assistant by being pushy and playing dumb.

Luckily, I was spared from enduring another borderline abusive relationship in the making because I went on a rant between the two movies. I was making Creamy Tuscan Chicken (hold the glucomannan) and going on and on about how these horrible people get a pass in the name of true love. Mid-rant I started talking about the only Romantic Comedy of this era that doesn’t follow this toxic trend, I said something along the lines of “Why can’t they all be like Picture Perfect?”

That’s when I knew, Picture Perfect is the only movie I wanted to watch or talk about. Unfortunately, I didn’t come to this conclusion until 8pm, hence the delay in the post. I have no regrets though, I’m looking forward to sipping on some caffeine and digging in to Picture Perfect on this beautiful Friday morning (second winter has passed!)

Picture Perfect is free to view on YouTube, and I highly recommend everyone give it a watch. The film was ahead of its time, premiering in 1997 and code switching to put the woman (Kate, played by Jennifer Anniston) in the high powered career seat, and her male counterpart (Nick, played by Jay Mohr) is genuine and doesn’t do shitty things that are somehow redeemed by true love. Kate works in a prestigious advertising firm in New York City, and despite everyone’s attempts at setting her up she begins to realize that her career is what’s most important to her. She comes up with a pitch that lands her firm a major mustard account but is left off of the creative team, and when she asks why her boss informs her that because she isn’t married or in debt he cannot trust that she is loyal to the firm.

Let’s just pause there for a moment. While the conversation is both public and generally accepted by the observers, the scene is expertly crafted to show the viewers that the conversation is disgusting. This is not the only time the toxic patriarchal ideas of the nineties are put on display – later in the movie one of their clients presents a disgusting hypersexualized idea for a new commercial and Kate can barely choke back her vomit. For a movie written and released in the 90s, it’s incredibly forward in pointing out these societal flaws.

In order to get her on the creative team, one of Kate’s work friends, Darcy (Illeana Douglas), shows the big boss a picture of Kate with a man she met at a wedding (Nick) and happened to take a picture with. Darcy tells a “little white lie” saying that this is Kate’s fiancé. With this ridiculous mile marker achieved, Kate gets promoted. Not because she’s talented, not because they only landed the campaign with her pitch, but because she fits the societal mold. Darcy convinces her to go along with the lie and Kate plans to pretend to be engaged until it’s convenient to pretend to break up. Then one day, Nick is filming a bar mitzvah when a fire breaks out in the building. A little girl is trapped under a vending machine and Nick gets her out before holding her and jumping backwards out of a window (so his body will break her fall) and saves her life. He ends up all over the news and Kate’s firm wants to take him out to dinner, presumably to say thanks for his service to humanity. Kate tracks Nick down and asks him to go along with the plan.

Kate is solely focused on her career and the calculated moves needed for a woman to make it in a man’s world and industry. When she asks Nick to come along and offers him $1,000 he says no, he says that he was about to get her number and ask her out because he liked meeting her at the wedding. She doesn’t even seem to comprehend what he’s saying – she’s so turned off to the idea of meeting men or anything to do outside of the office that she doesn’t understand that Nick felt a spark and wants to get to know her better. Her obliviousness turns her into the typical masculine role for the movies. She steamrolls all over Nick and barely treats him as an individual, while he stays true to himself the entire movie.

Nick’s steadfast nature is what really sets this movie apart for me. He is not ashamed or embarrassed by his career or life. He is a videographer who shoots weddings and other family events, and when Kate tries to lie and say he makes music videos he stands by what he does. The entire table is looking down on him but he is not phased. He describes the privilege of being allowed into intimate family moments and the joy that he feels capturing them, and the hoity toity New York advertisers melt into his words.

For the entire movie, Kate is solely focused on herself (and her affair with coworker Kevin Bacon – how has he had the same hairstyle for his entire life?) and while she steamrolls ahead, Nick continues to try to get to know her while being his authentic self. In fact, his only negative quality is the fact that he’s interested in Kate for so long while she’s being such a jerk. Somehow though, this code switch makes me feel comforted. I can’t stand it when a man is being an ass and the woman can “see through to his true self” but when it’s reversed I appreciate it. Maybe it’s a double standard or maybe it’s easier for me to relate to that narrative. I can get tunnel vision, singularly focused on my career and occasionally lost in the tiny details that keep my life on track. I consider myself to be a great listener but often someone has to ask me to slow down and focus before I can display that skill. Maybe it’s the ADHD, maybe it’s because I’ve spent too much time wandering and now that I know what I want I’m really getting after it. If I’m going to be with someone, I need them to be confident in who they are and capable of telling me to chill out and sit down every once in awhile, otherwise I’ll just keep charging on.

That quality really makes Picture Perfect a woman’s movie. I see myself in Kate, and I love that Nick is a genuine guy who will see through the busy swarm of thoughts buzzing around her head and can cut through it with sentimental gestures like listening to her stories and getting her a Cinderella watch. Most other RomComs from that era insist that it is the woman’s responsibility to keep up with and see through the man’s actions, and that just pisses me off so much because I don’t appreciate that those movies attempt to indoctrinate women into that way of thinking. In Picture Perfect, Nick is not asking Kate to give up her career or even slow down to include him in her life. He’s simply says that he’s interested in her, and asks that she really see him for who he is. While I can’t really get down with the storyline in which Kate walks out of the biggest meeting of her life in order to follow her love, I do appreciate that it gives her boss an opportunity to redeem himself after the “you must be married or in debt to be trusted” moment. All in all, I can forgive this movie for the occasional Hollywood moves because the message that it sends is so much better than what I usually expect from this genre. I appreciate that in 1997, someone thought to change up the narrative that we were all being force fed that decade.

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