Just a Kiss

Starting promisingly enough with just a kiss and the words "this is one of those mistakes you can't take back"; Just a Kiss swiftly degrades into a hodge-podge attempt at an ultra-trendy ensemble piece. While resorting to playing lame and transparent games with structure in order to cover glaring deficiencies of script, eventually one night of infidelity and disloyalty snowballs into an avalanche of cheating and general depression among a group of friends and couples. Eventually, as the script runs out of things to say on that particular subject, it veers off into entirely unrelated ground as a serial killer (Marisa Tomei) invades the friends' lives. Ingratiating herself and slaughtering them stealthily in between plane crashes and catering truck accidents, any attempt at a message is thrown aside as she works to achieve her misguided star-f***ing goals.

Just a Kiss is apparently a dark comedy; or at least tries to be, judging from the flippant tone in which all this is handled. But somewhere in its mad quest to be edgy, JAK also forgets to be funny and simply ends up being a huge uncomfortable waste of perfectly good screen time.

You see, Just a Kiss actually wishes it were called Mullholland Drive and sporting the phrase "Directed by David Lynch" in the title. Except even a confirmed Lynch hater like myself can recognize this film's inability to capture any of the things which have made that much better director a star. JAK attempts to compensate for lack of style and grit with wholly misplaced humor, but often ends up relying on topics like suicide to provide uncomfortable moments of intended but out of whack amusement

When not trying to slip in edgy but totally inappropriate suicide gags, Just a Kiss gets gimmicky and throws in oddly spaced bits of weirdly used roto-animation. Overlaid on top of the movie's most intense scenes and running happily in the background outside the windows of Taxi cabs, these prove instantly annoying and totally inconsistent. There appears to be little real rhythm or purpose behind their frequent use. In fact the film inexplicably abandons them halfway in, only to fall back on them intermittently for its confused and rewound ending.

With a plot so deeply hacked apart by rotomation overlays, flash backs, flash-forwards, and total restarts, Just a Kiss has only individual scenes to rely on as a means to carry it forward. Unfortunately, individual effort is spoiled by a cast of meaningless and poorly written characters living in a world of perpetual fog and sheltered impropriety. Each is carefully crafted to appeal specifically to the artsy, out of touch crowd you're most likely to find populating the more upscale arthouses of large cities. There are no garbage men, computer programmers, or housewives in this film. Everyone is an artist, or a director, a ballerina, or even a cellist. All women have at some point attempted to commit suicide, cause as we all know it is clearly very cool, and men have quirky "hip" names like Dag (no not Dog). The only REAL person in the entire film turns out to be a psychotic killer... perhaps a reflection of how the artsy elite view the rest of us schmucks out here mucking about in the real world.

As written by co-star Patrick Breen and directed by Fisher Stevens, JAK is so pretentious and off-putting, that even without annoying gimmicks and misplaced humor it would be hard to find it anything but irritating. At least Kyra Sedgewick seems to get it, frowning her way through the entire film. Or perhaps her mouth is attempting to separate itself from her face and escape from this travesty in which every person involved can be labeled as nothing more than a washed up hipster jackass.

Unable to have the strangely unconnected threads it weaves actually add up to anything significant, Just a Kiss simply throws all its energy into introducing new people and blissfully finding ways to kill a few of them off without much explanation. If only their deaths had signified the end. This kind of movie has been done before and likely will again. After all David Lynch is still about somewhere with a camera. But without any discernable purpose or real intention, Just a Kiss easily uniquifies itself as the worst of the artsy-fartsy, trendy West Coast/East Coast bunch.

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