Just A Kiss

2002, Movie, R, 89 mins


An ill-considered kiss has devastating consequences for a tight-knit group of Manhattan-based friends in this blackly comic film, which uses rotamation (à la WAKING LIFE) to give key scenes and images an air of slightly sinister surreality. Dag (Ron Eldar), a successful director of TV commercials, loves videographer Halley (Kyra Sedgwick), who's as smart and funny as she is beautiful; they share Dag's chic downtown loft. Dag's best friend, frustrated actor Peter (screenwriter Patrick Breen), has had his widest exposure wearing a silly eagle costume and shilling for peanut butter, a commercial gig he owes to Dag. Peter's girlfriend, unstable waif Rebecca (Marley Shelton), dances with the company her flamboyant mother (Zoe Caldwell) runs with an ego-destroying vigor that belies her age. A European fling between Dag and Rebecca — he's shooting a EuroDisney ad and she's on tour — sets off a disastrous chain reaction at home. "This is going to be one of those terrible mistakes," says Dag, just before he commits to making it. When Halley and Peter find out about the one-night stand, their respective relationships hit the fan: Halley leaves Dag and takes up with Rebecca's friend Andre (Taye Diggs), a smooth-talking cellist who neglects to mention his sexy stewardess wife, Colleen (Sarity Chohoury). Dag falls in lust with a fiercely seductive waitress, Paula (Marisa Tomei), who has eyes for Peter — that eagle costume really turns her on — and a secret life that includes chains. Rebecca tries to befriend Halley, Peter hooks up with Colleen, Paula shares some dark thoughts with Rebecca and what begins as a series of ironic romantic misadventures veers into surprisingly dark territory while remaining queasily funny. The directing debut of actor Fisher Stevens, this small-scale film isn't for all tastes. But veterans of the dating wars will smirk uneasily at the film's nightmare versions of everyday sex-in-the-city misadventures. Stevens makes good use of Manhattan locations and elicits excellent performances from his capable cast, who give their characters enough depth to make the film's do-over conceit seem less like a cheap gimmick than a guilty pleasure. The rotomated scenes, with their vivid, undulating colors, lend a spooky yet beguiling air to the most mundane images, as though the characters were imaging themselves into experimental animator Suzan Pitt's world of candy-colored nightmares. They're a surprisingly effective touch, used with sufficient discretion that they don't wear out their welcome. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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