Just a Kiss

on September 27, 2002 by Michael Tunison
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   Fate intertwines the messy love lives of seven neurotics in "Just a Kiss," an ensemble comedy of the familiar quirky, New York type. But while co-star/screenwriter Patrick Breen's smart dialogue and actor-turned-director Fisher Stevens' lively staging generate their share of amusing moments throughout, this somewhat more relaxed thirtysomething spin through Woody Allen territory doesn't manage quite enough punch in any one department--humor, originality, star power--to successfully stand out from the crowd of similarly themed indies.

   The fateful lip contact alluded to in the title occurs when TV commercial director Dag ("Black Hawk Down's" Ron Eldard) and dancer Rebecca (Marley Shelton from "Bubble Boy") get together one night despite the fact that Rebecca's actor beau Peter ("Galaxy Quest's" Breen) is Dag's close friend. The irony-driven repercussions of this ill-considered fling include Dag's wounded girlfriend ("Phenomenon's" Kyra Sedgwick) hooking up with Rebecca's pal, philosophical cellist Andre (Taye Diggs from the "The Best Man"), while a tossed-aside Peter finds himself next to Andre's lusty wife (Sarita Choudhury from "Kama Sutra") on a plane. Orbiting the film's three misfiring relationships is a sexy psycho waitress ("In the Bedroom's" Marisa Tomei), whose fixation with the peanut butter-loving eagle character Peter plays in one of Dag's commercials seems to know no bounds.

   While Fisher and Breen score with several witty, well-acted exchanges (especially when the movie-stealing Tomei is anywhere near a scene) they're only semi-successful in providing the film with some overall dramatic momentum--typically the big hurdle with this sort of ensemble effort. Animated elements laid over shots in a manner reminiscent of Richard Linklater's "Waking Life" add to the whimsical tone of the piece, but what the centerless, random-feeling "Just a Kiss" needs is something a little more solid for the audience to latch onto, not more offbeat visual stylism. Starring Ron Eldard, Kyra Sedgwick, Patrick Breen, Marisa Tomei, Marley Shelton, Taye Diggs, Sarita Choudhury and Zoe Caldwell. Directed by Fisher Stevens. Written by Patrick Breen. Produced by Matthew H. Roland. A Paramount Classics release. Comedy. Rated R for strong sexual images and language. Running time: 90 min

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