CATEGORIES Comedy, Independent, Romance, Tribeca, Cinematical Indie, Tribeca Film Festival, Cinematical
According to iMDB, William Tyler Smith's Kiss Me Again is the third film to go by that name (the fourth if you count Di er wen, a 1960 film from Hong Kong whose title translates to the same). In 1931 William A. Seiter directed an operetta-style musical called Kiss Me Again, in which Edward Everett Horton took a break from the fruity sidekick roles to play a singing soldier. The 1925 silent version of Kiss Me Again starred Clara Bow under the direction of Ernst Lubitsch. Though I can't provide personal testimony to either film (the former is obscure and the latter is believed to be lost), any combination of the above names on a marquee would instantly stir up ideas of sophisticated sex farce. It's not clear if first time feature-maker Smith meant to reference -- or if he was even aware of -- the other Kiss Me Agains, but his film plays as though he's trying to approximate a genre that he's not very familiar with. According to the press notes, Kiss Me Again wants to be a social issue film, which is laughable enough that there's no use dwelling on it. With its slacker savant hero, punk pop soundtrack, and embarrassingly elementary understanding of female sexuality (not to mention contemporary queerness), Kiss Me Again feels sort of like a direct-to-video sequel to Chasing Amy. Except that at least Kevin Smith is occasionally capable of writing funny jokes.
Julian (Jeremy London – the London from Party of Five, not the one from Dazed and Confused) is a paunchy, 30-something college professor grown bored with wife Chalice (Kathryn Winnick), and it's not hard to see why: Chalice's simpering naivete erases any appeal her porn star face, bod and name conspire to produce. When Chalice and Julian each independently, "accidentally" spy on their roommate Malika (Elisa Donovan, reprising her Clueless character in shades of blue hair and fashionable lesbianism) mid-threesome, Julian somehow manages to convince his pouty blonde wife that they should put an ad in a free weekly and look for a lover. Chalice is so dumb that she takes Julian's bullshit claim that he wants to screw another woman in order to "bring [them] closer together" at face value; little does she know, it's all a ploy so that Julian can hop into bed with one of his students, free of guilt.
And so begins two hours worth of indelicate foreshadowing, clumsy exposition, and other adventures in first-time narrative filmmaking. We get the obligatory montage of undesirable personal ad respondants, and – of course – the de rigeur trip to the suburban swinging party, before Julian figures out a way to get his hot peice of foreign exchange ass into the mix. The student, named Elena and played by Mirelly Taylor, is one of a kind of European exchange student that only seem to exist in American films; her ethnicity and nationality are reduced to a slate of eroticized Spanglish, a jaunty beret, and an implied sluttiness. Taylor looks kind of like a Forever 21-outfitted version of Penelope Cruz, which fits: her job is to breeze in and confuse both Julian and Chalice with her exotic, ambiguous, but strangely accessible carnality. And also, to look great with her hair in a bun and a pencil in her mouth. What ever potential excitement the seen-it-before narrative holds comes cheifly from the danger Elena potentially poses to Chalice and Julian's marriage. But when the two gals begin their ineveitable dalliance on the side, it's only to practice a dreary brand of lesbianism that seems to be all about baths and candles and deep teary talks and giant mugs of tea. It's so unthreatening, it's not even hot.
It's problematic that there's not a single laugh-out-loud moment in the thing (at least, not one that Smith intends), but the film gets really laughable when it tries to get serious. The script forces the characters to use superelaborate metaphors ("You're in the tree and I heard the branch crash and I tried to warn you!") and brutally worn-out cliches ("That's just the little head talking to the big head") - insert Beevis laugh here) instead of saying what they mean. They also tend to kick things when they're angry. Which is a lot. By the time Darrell Hammond was trying to spit out that above line about the tree and the branch and the crash with a straight face, the critics I watched the film with had stopped trying to stiffle the mocking giggles. For most of its duration, Kiss Me Again isn't exactly unpleasant – tired jokes and sitcom-big performances aside, it's generally harmless and inoffensive – but since it *is* a film about threesomes and latent lesbianism, "harmless and inoffensive" is probably the opposite of what it aspires to be. Whoops.