Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: "Shall We Kiss?

"Shall We Kiss?" is a frothy French romance about deception. The principal characters lie to each other, of course, but mostly they're lying to themselves. They work overtime at self-deception, telling themselves they're acting out of passion, when really they're just selfish and immature. They may speak beautiful French, wear expensive clothes and drink the most exquisite wines, but really they're children.

There are several overlapping sets of couples. The main one is Nicolas and Judith, played by Emmanuel Mouret (who also wrote and directed) and Virginie Ledoyen. They are close friends who reveal everything to each other, even though they are both in relationships. One day, on an apparent whim, Nicolas decides he needs physical affection, and Judith is the only one who can help him. He tried a prostitute, but was put off by the impersonal nature of the transaction.

The other couple is Emilie and Gabriel (Julie Gayet and Michael Cohen), who provide the framing story for the film. They meet one day on the street, he asks for a kiss, and she refuses him because of the story of Nicolas and Judith, who is a friend of hers. These two spend several intimate hours as Emilie relates the story, with their own attraction growing by and by.

The other not-quite couple is Claudio and Caline, who are the partners of Judith and Nicolas. They don't know each other, but Judith and Nicolas conspire to for them to meet, in the hopes they will hit it off and end their respective relationships. They say they do this out of love for their soon-to-be-ex partners, but anyone can see they're making it easier on themselves, not acting out of altruism.

I enjoyed "Shall We Kiss?", even though the characters are mostly unlikable. It's entertaining to watch as they use their well-educated minds to justify their deplorable behavior, convincing themselves they're good people forced into terrible positions by fate. It's a high-stakes con game where the swindler and the mark are the same person.

3 stars

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