Kissing You **
Starring: Océane-Rose-Marie, Alice Pol, Michéle Laroque, Laure Calamy
Directors: Océane Michel, Cyprien Vial
There’s something really irritating about people deliberately trying to be quirky. Since 500 Days Of Summer, films in their dozens have attempted to capture that same essence of idiosyncrasy that set the tone for almost every rom-com ever since. Finding that perfect balance between casting their protagonists as the everyman/woman and also portraying their striking individuality is something screenwriters have been struggling with ever since. And Kissing You (Embrasse-moi! in its native France) fails completely in hitting the mark.
French comedienne and singer Océane-Rose-Marie (A.K.A. Oshen) stars as herself, albeit a fictionalised version who works as a chiropractor. As we all know, being a chiropractor presents plenty of opportunity for hilarity (!) as well as presenting all kinds of back-related emergencies that are wholly inconvenient for her to deal with as she deals with her turbulent love life. Her mother (French film legend, Laroque) is upset that she and her lawyer ex-girlfriend (Calamy) have split, doing her best to try and engineer situations in which they can be in the same place at the same time, despite the fact that her daughter is clearly pursuing Cécile (Pol).
These are one-note characters with very little to them. The ex-girlfriend is a bitch; the mother is obsessed solely with the status of her daughter’s partner; Océane-Rose-Marie is simply a clutz, whose awkward mistakes exist to rouse sympathy but succeed only in making her exasperating. Cécile is about as close as there is to a rounded character as the woman trying to overcome her fear of flying, but her roundedness serves only to make her somewhat dreary and doesn’t explain just why Océane-Rose-Marie would go so far as to go to a phobia clinic to woo her, dressed as an Eric Prydz dancer to perform ‘Pump Up The Jam’ in the middle of a group therapy session.
The film positions gags left, right and centre, but fails to deliver on most of its punchlines like the England team in a penalty shoot-out with Germany. The humour hasn’t been lost in translation either, as my French boyfriend is insistent “it wasn’t funny, it was just naff”. And worse than that, the story doesn’t stand up by itself either. Simply following a couple’s early obstacles, there is little to it whatsoever. Even the poised opposition from her mother to her new girlfriend isn’t fully explored, when this would have made for a really interesting crux for the narrative. And with an actress like Michéle Laroque on board, she is criminally underused.
From the nation that gave us La Cage Aux Folles, LGBT comedies aren’t that rare. It feels like the film is playing solely on the quirk of it being about lesbians… except that’s not enough anymore to engage an audience either here or in France. We expect so much more. The script is flimsy, the acting basic and the whole film structured around what is essentially prestige-piece spotlight hogging from a comedienne whose skills clearly lie elsewhere.