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Film review: Just a Kiss

Published: Monday, Oct. 21 2002 1:25 p.m. MDT

JUST A KISS —* 1/2 — Ron Eldard, Kyra Sedgwick, Patrick Breen, Marley Shelton, Marisa Tomei, Taye Diggs, Sarita Choudhury; rated R (profanity, sex, violence, drugs, nudity, vulgarity, brief gore); exclusively at the Consolidated Starships Broadway Film Center.

Among its many serious problems is the fact that "Just a Kiss" can't make up its mind about what type of movie it wants to be.

A handful of scenes done in the "rotoscope" style of animation might have you believe it's a think piece along the lines of last year's "Waking Life." But the mostly live-action movie also attempts to be a quirky romantic comedy, a comic fantasy and even a domestic drama.

Unfortunately, almost none of this experimentation works, and the rather unlikable, unsympathetic characters make what is less than 90 minutes seem much, much longer.

The film's title refers to an indiscretion that has occurred between Dag (Ron Eldard), a commercial director, and Rebecca (Marley Shelton), a professional dancer. A night of passion has had dire consequences on their other relationships.

Dag's girlfriend Halley (Kyra Sedgwick) isn't too pleased, and neither is Rebecca's boyfriend Peter (Patrick Breen), who's also Dag's best friend.

Worse, it has thrown Halley and Peter into separate, ill-advised flings of their own — Halley with music teacher Andre (Taye Diggs) and Peter with Colleen (Sarita Choudhury), who just happens to be Andre's wife. Meanwhile, Dag has taken up with Paula (Marisa Tomei), an unhinged bowling-alley waitress obsessed with failed-actor Peter.

"Just a Kiss" marks the directorial debut of character actor Fisher Stevens, who should have know better. "Just a Kiss" has all the subtlety and insight of a bad student-film project, and its attempts at humor are weak and surprisingly tasteless.

And despite the presence of some talented people in the cast, the performances are surprisingly flat. As Dag, Eldard seems more bored than conflicted, and Breen's sleepwalking routine here makes him a two-time offender (he also wrote this mess). The women don't fear any better either: Tomei strays close to hamminess, Shelton is wooden, and Sedgwick looks as if she's trying to find the exit.

"Just a Kiss" is rated R for frequent use of strong sex-related profanity, simulated sex and sex acts, violence (vehicular and sexual violence), drug content (prescription drug abuse), flashes of male and female nudity, crude references to bodily functions and brief gore. Running time: 89 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com