I have never had a really guilty secret in my life, and that is why I need to get this off my chest. Another night in with The Divine P saw me take my eye off the ball and let her have possession of the remote control. The day I invent a remote control unit with a built-in mousetrap, the world will surely beat a path to my door. Flicking through the channels at a blinding pace, as she is wont to do, she stopped suddenly at the beginning of a move called French Kiss (1995). As she explained the outline of the plot to me, I felt trapped – it was late, and the local bar wasn’t open. I had no choice but to watch it. There I sat, confronted with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline in a tale of betrayal and emotion in a transatlantic love story. My guilty secret – in case you hadn’t guessed – is that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It helped enormously that it was a romantic comedy. Had it been played straight, I would probably have not bothered. Meg Ryan plays Meg Ryan (if you’ve seen When Harry Met Sally (1989), you’ll know what I’m talking about). Cute, sexy and more than a little fussy and priggish and with a profound fear of flying, Ryan’s character Kate is settling into her new life as a Canadian. She met her doctor husband (Timothy Hutton) and moved there to be with him. In the early scenes, he displays a distinct lack of commitment, and ends up going to Paris for a conference, meeting a vivacious young French woman and not coming back.
Naturally, Kate is none too impressed with this situation and decides to take the big step of getting into an aircraft to go to Paris and confront her husband over his fling. On the plane, she’s trying to overcome her fear of flying, and is helpfully distracted by her fury at the boorish, opinionated and rude Frenchman sat next to her. Luc Teyssier (Kevin Kline) is everything Kate is not – arrogant, ignorant, loud and a chain-smoker. You know where this is going, don’t you?
It would not be like telling you Keyser Soze is if I was to say that they got together in the end and lived (presumably) happily ever after. Lawrence Kasdan’s film is one of those in which it is far better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Two characters, the complete antithesis of each other, a slightly dodgy situation involving some smuggled jewellery and some impossible situations contrive to keep the unlikely pair together during the film. The script is very well done, and visual gags, puns and cultural references abound. When Kate recounts meeting her husband, she says “It wasn’t exactly a thunderclap or a lighning bolt, it was more like a…” to which Luc helpfully replies “Light drizzle?”
Kline does a very passable French accent, which for me was a good thing. The story would simply not have worked at all if the only gag was a ‘hilarious’ mock accent. The on-screen chemistry between the two leads was believable – they genuinely seemed to be having fun with it. All in all, it was well-made, the script was competently executed for maximum giggles and there really isn’t a lot to dislike about it. The slushy stuff was kept to a minimum, with only the payoff at the end getting a little syrupy – another plus point for a man with a morbid fear of chick flicks. Oh, and Jean Reno is in it too, playing a cop. He really isn’t in it much, but he’s – well, he’s Jean Reno, isn’t he?
My conclusion: surprisingly good romantic comedy, lots of good, gentle humour, a bit light on Reno.
111 mins. In English and French.