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    Just a Kiss

    Snog alert

    The best things about "Just a Kiss" are, luckily enough, the talented ensemble and the kissing — not the plot that can't quite manage to hang together.


    If you go to this movie just for the hot kissing, you'll have gotten your money's worth. The stellar ensemble of 30-something Manhattanites (hey, I'm one of those!) is sexy and talented, but the hype for this movie hasn't been the all-star cast. The hype has been based on the film's use of rotomation, the animating of live action.

    Directed by: Fisher Stevens.
    Written by: Patrick Breen.
    Cast: Ron Eldard, Patrick Breen, Kyra Sedgwick, Taye Diggs, Marisa Tomei, Sarita Choudhoury and Marley Shelton..

    Related links: Official site
    Since the themes are very adult in nature — infidelity, violence — I sought some deeper meaning in the placement of the animation, something other than entertaining younger audiences with the coolness of cartoons. Ostensibly, the bright colors and flickering movement would serve to heighten poignant emotional moments, or deflect from the graphic nature of some of the violence. While director Fisher Stevens may have succeeded at the latter, the former is rarely clear. I asked someone smarter than I am to tell me what she thought the animation signified, and she had no clue, either. The colors are nice, though.

    Ron Eldard is an amazing actor. He gave me shivers in Neil LaBute's "Bash" with his portrayal of a Mormon father who does something unspeakable. He broke my heart as Biff in "Death of a Salesman." "Just a Kiss" was my first opportunity to see Eldard in a leading role on film, and he did not disappoint. Dag is sensual and sleazy, everything you want in a modern protagonist, in spite of a script that doesn't give him much to do.

    Just a Kiss  
    The acting is strong across the board, but Marisa Tomei's psychotic and sadistic bowling-alley waitress is freakishly fierce — the most active and intense personality of the heartbroken bunch. The tenderhearted Kyra Sedgwick is adorable, Taye Diggs is his usual charming and yummy self and Patrick Breen is eminently lovable (by us, even if not by the stunning Marley Shelton). A delightful cameo by Zoe Caldwell adds another generation to the picture without blurring the main issue of infidelity. ("Fosse fucked me at 4 a.m. . . . ," she reminisces.)

    With all this talent, what is it that keeps this movie from hanging together? Maybe because it never decides what it wants to be. The melodrama of the first scene, which I found funny and interesting, disappears all too quickly before dabbling in the world of animation, which then dissolves into a naturalistic style that eventually becomes bizarrely macabre. This last almost-genre comes across as the strongest of the lot. The tragic hilarity is cleverly written and engaging, till for some unknown reason, we move backwards in time (and yes, we're forced to watch many of the scenes in reverse order, as if we couldn't remember what had happened in the last 75 minutes) and end up back where we started. Dag the Rake makes a more noble choice than he did in Version 1, which quite naturally alters the future as we've seen it.

    So what is the point, I asked myself. I must admit I had a really good time in the hour a half it took to tell me not-much-of-anything. "Just a Kiss" is a pleasant diversion, has a talented cast and some funny and twisted moments, but don't expect any sort of epiphany. The irony of the title isn't well supported by the film itself. See it for the amusing distraction that it is.

    OCTOBER 26, 2002

    Reader comments on Just a Kiss:

  • animation significance   from LInda Gallagher, May 12, 2003
  • [no subject]   from Debbie Little, Mar 3, 2005

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