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'Just a Kiss'

Creative and amusing, 'Kiss' a delicious romp

Saturday, October 12, 2002

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

Labial fusion makes for sexual fission in "Just a Kiss," the most thoroughly delicious romantic comedy I've seen this year.

It's a dark one, to be sure, written by (and co-starring) Patrick Breen as one of a half-dozen thirtysomethings suffering from interconnected fidelity issues -- a chain reaction set off by one simple smooch in a European hotel room.

 
 
"Just a Kiss"

RATING: R for strong sexual images and language

STARRING: Ron Eldard, Marley Shelton, Marisa Tomei.

DIRECTOR: Fisher Stevens

Critic's call:

   
 

The guilty smoochers are a TV commercial director named Dag (after Hammarskjold, but everybody thinks it's "Dog" by the pronunciation), who finds himself alone with his best friend's girl Rebecca -- a drop-dead gorgeous ballerina.

"So why are you in Europe?" asks Rebecca (Marley Shelton).

"Didn't I tell you?" replies Dag (Ron Eldard).

"Probably -- I don't listen," she answers.

Rebecca is as compulsively confessional as she is unfaithful -- but also thoughtful. She tells Dag's no-nonsense fiancee Halley (Kyra Sedgwick) she has slept with him, and then immediately offers Halley her apartment if she wants to move out on Dag.

Trouble is, she has also offered her apartment to sweet-talkin' cellist Andre (Taye Diggs).

Dag's betrayed best friend is short-suffering Breen, star of a wildly popular beaked-bird peanut-butter commercial. But the real wild card is Marisa Tomei -- bowling-alley waitress by day, dominatrix by night -- the peanut-butter bird's biggest and most dangerous groupie, who figures as an Angel of Death hovering over the coffins that begin to pile up.

Ah, life's little sexual accidents. If only we could turn back the clock. ... Or can we?

Breen's screenplay and rookie Fisher Stevens' direction are equally amusing and creative. Particularly effective is Stevens' use of rotoscope, a color-drenched digital-animation overlay used to "enhance" certain live-action moments -- wonderful as a pop-art highlighting device when used sparingly, as here.

"Just a Kiss" and its irony are total fun -- even when over the top: During a party in the first-class section of a plane, the use of a cell phone during landing results in a crash. Everyone in business and coach is killed, but by some miracle all first-class passengers survive -- complete with their hand luggage.

That should not be funny. But it is.

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