Music Box Films // 2007 // 100 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // February 24th, 2010
"Before a kiss is given, no one knows if it'll be big or small."
Shall We Kiss? is a light, romantic affair -- and I mean that literally. This fluffy French confection treats adultery like it was, naturally, the next phase of love. These illicit couplings aren't completely free of consequences but it's quite remarkable that everyone can come away from a marital betrayal with their dignity intact.
While on a business trip in Nantes, Émilie (Julie Gayet, Clara et Moi) meets Gabriel (Michaël Cohen, Them) and there's instant, mutual attraction. Though neither one of them is single, they have dinner together and enjoy each other's company on what may be their only night together. However, when Gabriel leans in for a kiss, Émilie pulls away. She explains her hesitation by way of a story about two people whose lives were changed by a kiss.
In flashback, we meet Judith (Virginie Ledoyen, The Backwoods) and Nicolas (writer-director Emmanuel Mouret, Change of Address). They're best friends and Judith is contentedly married to Claudio (Stefano Accorsi, Blame It On Fidel!). Suffering from a traumatic breakup, Nicolas asks Judith to help him get some physical release. That's right, he asks his married best friend for a casual sexual encounter. She agrees and a predictable complication follows: they discover that they both like it. What are they to do about their feelings for each other? And what about Claudio?
Un baiser s'il vous plaît, the movie's originally title, is pretty far removed from a realistic depiction of adult relationships. These smart looking characters talk a good talk, similar to how Woody Allen's protagonists tend to over-analyze their motivations, but they behave at a sit-com level. This is most apparent during Nicolas and Judith's first tryst. The drawn-out lead-up to the moment feels like the most timid sex comedy ever put to film as they negotiate touching, disrobing and the all-important kissing. Upon realizing that they enjoyed sex with each other, their logic is to have more sex so they can shake off the good vibrations. I can partly forgive the unreal behavior of the cheating couple considering that theirs is a story Émilie is telling. Though far-fetched, their adulterous romance isn't without charm and humor. Ledoyen manages to be luminous on screen even though her character isn't entirely convincing. Still, both Judith and Nicolas feel like scripted creations rather than living characters.
The will-they or won't-they dilemma of Émilie and Gabriel is a little more grounded. This couple is more thoughtful in their conversations and there's some sexual tension in their scenes. It's too bad their part of the movie gets less screen time.
The writing is artificially thoughtful in that it's ponderous about affairs of the heart but ultimately doesn't say anything meaningful. The couples' stories simultaneously warn against infidelity and excuse it. Adultery: take it or leave it, the movie seems to say, that's just how our emotions work. That also sums up my feeling about the movie. Shall We Kiss? is unbelievable but enjoyable if you're in the mood for an inconsequential romance that simmers.
DVD Verdict received a screener disc from Music Box Films for review, so the technical specifications and any supplemental materials may differ on the final retail product. Aside from the colors looking a touch pale, the picture quality is good. The image is clean throughout and the permanent English subtitles are easy to read. The stereo audio sounds fine with the uncomplicated mix of clear dialogue and classical music.
Not guilty, or guilty, however your emotions guide you. Okay, not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Official Site