In my review of The Bourne Identity (2002), I mentioned that, with nothing to see of note at the theater this past weekend, my girlfriend and I chose from her DVD collection. The Matt Damon action thriller was the first choice. The other, French Kiss (1995), is a film that she has been talking about since we started dating. This comes with the territory when one has a reputation for being a movie guy. People have their movies that they believe others should watch. I am no different in this regard. Our tastes in film are such an individual thing that sometimes it is difficult to translate our passion for a title in a way to get the kind of reaction we hope for from their viewing. This has happened more times than I care to admit. My girlfriend loves French Kiss. Given the fact that it is set in France and that I hope to travel to that country this year, as well as my girlfriend’s enthusiasm, it had much going for it. As for what I think of it now that I have seen it, well. . . .
French Kiss actually begins in Canada, with American teacher Kate (Meg Ryan) building her future with her Canadian fiancé Charlie Lytton (Timothy Dutton). Charlie’s work calls him to Paris, and he wants Kate to accompany him. Unfortunately, her application for citizenship prevents her from going, which goes along with a fear of flying. At first, Charlie regularly calls Kate, checking in on their plans and keeping up with their relationship. Soon, the calls become irregular until one day Charlie says that he has met someone else. Not wanting to give up on Charlie, against her better judgment Kate purchases a ticket for Paris. While sitting on the tarmac and panicking about what she is about to undertake, she is soon joined by French national Luc Teyssier (Kevin Kline). Luc is a shady character, an obvious smuggler and thief. Yet, he can tell that Kate is in a bit of stress. With the help of a few drinks and a willingness to argue with her in order to distract her from the perceived terror of the plane taking off, he is able to get her to ignore the potential danger. There is an ulterior motive for Luc befriending Kate. Before they land, he slips a grape fine cutting and pilfered diamond necklace into her possession. What does not go to plan is what happens after they get to the terminal. Though planting his goods on Kate helps him get them past customs, Luc is soon met by police inspector and friend Jean-Paul Cardon (Jean Reno). Though Jean-Paul does not arrest Luc, it means that Kate is able to go her own way. This way leads her to the hotel where Charlie is staying. When she gets there, she has to contend with an uncooperative concierge, who will not give her Charlie’s room number. Nonetheless, she sees Charlie coming down into the lobby with his “French goddess” Juliette (Susan Anbeh), though they take no notice of her. Making matters worse is the fact she is targeted by a French conman, Bob (François Cluzet), who makes off with all her luggage, including the bag that containing Luc’s illicit goods. Luc finds out about this when he catches up with Kate at the hotel, and feigning chivalry once more, agrees to help her retrieve her items. They are able to locate Bob and re-obtain her bags, sans money and passport, which Bob had already taken. Luc’s mania over searching her bags shows that he did not really care about helping, and she leaves. She then discovers that Charlie had departed for Cannes, and decides to travel there as well. As for Luc, the one thing missing is the necklace. Believing that is must still be in Kate’s purse, he manages to make contact before she departs by train. This time Luc’s line is that he will assist her in reigniting her relationship with Charlie. Their course to Cannes also takes them through Luc’s hometown La Ravelle. In this homecoming, Kate learns that Luc’s past is not what she assumed from a smuggler and thief. He comes from a wine producing family, and should be the one currently running the business had he not gambled away his birthright to his brother. It also is the beginning of a bond between them despite Kate’s stated goal. Once they make it to Cannes, they come up with a plan to confront Charlie. When it is hatched, Charlie encounters a new, more confident Kate, and he agrees to go to dinner with her, ostensibly to settle their break-up. At the same time, Luc agrees to distract Juliette. While Charlie and Kate dine, he realizes the mistake that he has made. The meal leads to dancing, which leads to the bedroom. Before their kissing can get too far, though, Kate realizes she has fallen for Luc and departs. The next day, abiding by a deal she made with Jean-Paul, she returns the necklace that she still had on her, and obtains a check for the money she had been saving for her and Charlie. Kate then gives the check to Luc, who believes it is for the necklace, and tells him that she is going to meet Charlie. Before she can leave, Luc makes it to the plane, tells her his feelings, and finds out that it had all been done for him. From there, the film seems to suggest that they return to a new vineyard Luc has purchased.
This description of French Kiss makes it sound like a fairly straightforward romance. Then again, there is the character of Luc to consider. As I have discussed many times in other reviews, my Faith tells me that anyone is worthy of redemption. I will also admit that my Catholic sensibilities tell me that someone you know to be a criminal might not be somebody that I would consider dating. For better or worse, people who engage in law breaking activities often have a difficult time leaving behind that way of life. The Bible is replete with people who do not fit with normative behavior, and end up being key figures in God’s plan of salvation. Finally, if nothing else, such people can be a good reminder of why one should follow the letter of the law. After all, Jesus did say to obey statutes, even if St. Augustine of Hippo later averred that an unjust law is no law at all. With all this being said, it does seem that Luc simply made some poor choices as a young man and is trying to get back to the life he once lived. There are some who commit crimes because they desire to break the law. Then there are others who seem to be more the victim of circumstance. The reason I still question Luc as a character has nothing to do with him being a thief and smuggler. Instead, it relates to when he, ahem, French kisses Kate while she is asleep. Call me crazy, but I found this to be creepy.
French Kiss is an unremarkable romantic comedy. If you have seen one example of this genre, you have seen them all. It is also relatively innocent, aside from the light sexual assault Luc commits with Kate. One thing I will recommend about it is that it was filmed on location in France. If you cannot currently make it to the actual country, the cinematic one is a reasonable substitute until you can go.