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Kisses and Caroms

There are people who support independent filmmaking just because it's independent. No matter how bad the micro-indie they're pushing is they'll try to convince you it's wonderful, just because it was made quickly, cheaply, and outside the studio system. I'm not buying it. If a movie is bad it's bad, if it's good it's good. How it was made is irrelevant. Like those other under-funded independent, Kisses and Caroms is a movie made quickly (shot in five days I'm told), cheaply (no posh trailers for these stars), and definitely outside the studio system (unless you count Poverty Works as a studio). Unlike a lot of its other micro-indie counterparts though, it's also surprisingly good.

It begins where a lot of guys might like their evenings to end, with a menage. Zack (Drew Wick) wakes up in bed between two beautiful naked women, and pretends to go back to sleep. Jennifer (Nikki Stanzione) wakes up next to Zack, slips out of bed, and sneaks out of the house. Zack opens one eye and then attempts to do the same, but it doesn't work. Tara (Nicole Rayburn) sits up stark naked and unashamed to call out after him. She'll be in later to pick up her check.

Tara is in fact, not a hooker. The three bedmates work together at a billiard supply store, and the film unfolds as they are forced to face the day together post-orgy. For Zack and Jennifer at least, things get a little uncomfortable. The real shocker in all of this is the acting. It's good. Kisses and Caroms' script is mainly about relationships, with a few wacky gags mixed in to keep the mood light. Anything this heavily character driven is shaky ground for a micro-budgeted movie. It's not like the film's director/producer/co-writer (and I suspect caterer/janitor/driver and a dozen other things too) Vince Rocca could have run out and hired Scarlett Johansson to tackle one of the movie's more demanding roles. Of course hiring a known actress would probably only mean you'd be stuck with a diva who won't take her top off' and who wants to deal with that?

Still, you get what you pay for and often the big problem with these moneyless productions is that they're not paying anyone and so end up taking whomever they can get off the street to fill out a part. Friends, neighbors, a bum who wanders in front of the camera in the midst of a night shoot, or worse aspiring models; wherever these pics on the cheap get them, the acting usually sucks. Kisses and Caroms breaks that mold with some fairly solid performances from complete unknowns. Casting is actually the movie's greatest strength, and you've got to wonder where Vince found his.

I'm not trying to sell these actors as Oscar contenders, keep in mind we're working on a sliding scale here. But compared to its other micro-indie brethren, Kisses and Caroms is rather well acted. It probably helps that the film's decent enough actors are given pretty solid dialogue to interpret.

Some of the script feels a little contrived, for instance we probably could have done without a radio psychiatrist subplot, or another gun-toting jealous husband. But as it explores the relationship between Nicole, Zack, and Tara K&C has some interesting, maybe even a little bit brave, places to go. Well brave if you consider being pro-swinging gutsy. Scratch that, it's not an advertisement for swinging. Maybe a better way to describe it is as willing to endorse the experimental. Amidst the girl on girl on guy action Kisses and Caroms is mostly a movie about making love work, even if it means being willing to be a little non-traditional. For a lot of people it's not natural to think outside the box where relationships are concerned, but the movie presents it in a way that's smart and silly all at once. They get it right, it feels authentic and when you're taking on something as potentially wild as threesomes I don't think you can ask for more than that.

Whoa, I can hear you hardcore Chronicles of Narnia fans clicking over to another review already. You're right this probably isn't the movie for you. But don't take it too seriously. This is after all a comedy, and one with a few decent laughs. Some of the best jokes are riffs on the work of Kevin Smith, which perhaps explains why he's gone and endorsed it. You can't really go wrong with references to the Rufus, the 13th apostle.

The movie's a sexy, funny, insightful, gleefully rated R flick that's at least a step above any other script shot in five days for next to nothing. It's not perfect, the production values are low and sure there's plenty of room for improvement in the details of it. I'm not here to make excuses for the film, but for what it is Kisses and Caroms works. Maybe Vince Rocca's threesome opus isn't ready for Hollywood, and it could definitely use a better title, but the movie's sharper than it ought to be. If you're stuck in an arthouse and you can't stand another boring 120 minutes of pretension, keep an eye out for Kisses and Caroms and give it a chance.