Picture of Her (2023) Review: A Standard Romcom That Rehashes The Channel’s Same Old-Age Formula

Picture of Her (2023) Review

Picture of Her (2023) Review: While discussing the massive appeal of popular genre fiction, literary critic Walter Nash wondered why people were drawn to books that featured the same repetitive story again and again. “The readers of popular fiction do not want the same book again though they may want more of the same kind,” proclaimed Nash. Hallmark Channel, whose name has become synonymous with comforting romcoms, seems to have understood the capital relevance of Nash’s statement.

The channel’s generic brand of romantic comedies employs the same formula for different stories to deliver a conservative version of early 2000s post-feminist romance films. Reading the two-lined IMDb summary of these films is enough to let you know the plot proceedings of the entire movie.

Despite this, thanks to their warm and cuddly appeal, these Hallmark features continue to be consumed and enjoyed. Again employing their well-oiled formula, the channel’s latest feature is Picture of Her (2023)—a harmless yet trite version of all the romantic comedies you have probably seen before.

As the film begins, we follow Beth (Rhiannon Fish), who lives in James Harbor, Washington, and manages the fishing business with her endearing father (Robert Wisden). A few years back, Beth was studying environmental education in Los Angeles and had plans to change the world, but following a heartbreak, she decided to move back to her town. But Beth has no nostalgia for the city of stars and feels at home in the sea life, leading her crew with finesse.

However, when her LA-based Aunt Jody (Samantha Ferris) is met with a fracture, Beth finds herself going to the city she had left behind for good. Running parallel to Beth’s story is that of Jake (Tyler Hynes), a freelance photographer working for a tabloid magazine specializing in sensational celebrity news.

Jake’s daily life revolves around receiving tips from his co-worker Janice (Aadila Dosani) and clicking photos of celebrities when they are at their most vulnerable—whether caught cheating or shoplifting. On one assignment, Jake’s boss Candace (Alison Araya) sends him to click photographs at the Farmer’s Market, where Beth is there to sell some flowers grown by Aunt Dody, a horticulturalists.

Enthralled by her beauty, Jake stealthily manages to click some photographs of Beth around the farmer’s market. Not much later, Jake and Beth meet at a dog park and form a close bond. Not wanting to reveal his intrusive profession, Jake lies to Beth that he provides photographs for news features rather than scandalous celebrity exposés.

However, Beth’s farmer market photo soon goes viral (“The face that launched a thousand clicks”—to quote one of the clever lines from the film) as the magazine publishes it on its cover page. Jake is left in a dilemma to reveal that he took her photograph while Beth struggles to deal with her newfound fame. Will this photograph uproot the blossoming relationship between the duo?

Written by Donald Davenport and directed by Michael Robison (both having written and directed several Hallmark features, respectively), Picture of Her is a fairly standard affair, and those familiar with Hallmark’s brand of films will find what they are looking for. With a runtime of 84 minutes, this is a brisk and finely paced affair with decent enough performances by Rhiannon Fish and Tyler Hynes, who create believable chemistry even though the material they are given is pretty standard.

There is also a subversion of the hackneyed Hallmark trope about the city girl traveling to her small town to rediscover her Americana roots. But even though the film features the opposite scenario of Beth migrating to the big city, the film stays true to depict LA as the city of excess and duplicity—settling for small-town America as the place of innocence, warmth, and comfort.

However, this adherence to this conservative ideology is not the only flaw of Picture of Her. Hallmark remains under the false assumption that a good romantic film should only feel like a warm cup of hot (insert the name of your favorite beverage!), providing comfort and reassurance.

It seems to forget that a good romance film’s ultimate appeal is not in its reassurance but in the introspection of love and the people who experience it. Picture of Her seems interested only in the former, eschewing complexity and nuance for fantasy. Our two protagonists seemed to be pulled out of every other Hallmark film or Nicholas Sparks fiction.

Beth is your standard headstrong woman with a broken past, while the stubble-bearded and bike-riding Jake exudes the diluted metrosexual rockstar persona. If this was not enough, there are banal dialogues like “We just met, but it feels like he’s known me a lot longer….” Sigh!

On the narrative front, the film’s distinct feature remains its subplot involving Jake’s viral photograph of Beth and her quest to locate the ‘mysterious’ person who clicked her photograph. However, this mistaken identity and comedy of errors core are borrowed from many better-executed romcoms like You’ve Got Mail and The Giant Mechanical Man.

The film teases a conversation about photographing without consent and the ethical implications of such an enterprise. However, it pushes it away with a throwaway line about the legal validation of capturing someone in public. Director Robison also doesn’t inject anything fresh into the film, repeating the same establishing shots of places and using overtly familiar musical cues.

Picture of Her is yet another rehash of the same formula typical of Hallmark features, adding little originality to its brand. It is also a shame that the film does little to nothing with its most compelling character, Janice.

Jake’s co-worker, who has a penchant for spying on cheating rockstars and kleptomaniac blondies, is the film’s most entertaining part. Maybe a story about her quest to go about LA and capturing an eccentric bunch of characters in the city would be an original project Hallmark would like to consider.

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Picture of Her (2023) Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Picture of Her (2023) Cast: Tyler Hynes, Rhiannon Fish, and Samantha Ferris
Where to watch Picture of Her
Parth Pant

Worshipper at the altar of the holy trinity of Sidney Prescott, Wes Craven, and Kevin Williamson. A connoisseur of everything related to cinema, especially the dark and depraved.