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The Bottom Shelf #126

09.20.2007

Everyone and their mother thinks that they can write a movie about relationships these days. Not just the standard rom-com, either. These people think they're redefining the genre by opening some can of insightful whoop-ass on the viewer. I say most fall short, including these two selections, but at least these two walked off the yellow brick sidewalk to get there.

JUST A KISS (2002)
Directed by: Fisher Stevens
Starring: Ron Eldard, Kyra Sedgwick

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Every movie that centers around trying to detail what modern day romance is like, usually fails in some aspect. The main one here is that most people don't live in the area of New York that causes the inhabitants (even if only in film representations) to be so nauseatingly self-involved. The second is the fact that most movies like JUST A KISS are trying too hard to be topical and quirky at the same time that they end up appealing to no one. Make up your mind and figure out if you're going to be a drama, a comedy or some weird indie movie already. This is not kindergarten. You do not get instant credit just because you're trying your best.

The movie centers around a group of friends (a womanizing commercial director, one of his friends/actors, his videographer girlfriend and the vapid yet beautiful ballet dancer girlfriend of the actor) and their infidelities. When the director sleeps with the dancer and causes her to spiral into another one of her depressions, leading to another attempted suicide, everyone finds out about their affair which kickstarts a series of increasingly unbelievable events. The wronged girlfriend spends the night in the dancer's apartment and sleeps with one of her friends. His wife ends up on a plane with the actor, screwing him in a bathroom in first class. And somehow the director ends up with the misfortune (I dunno, since Marisa Tomei, even when psycho, doesn't seem like any kind of misfortune to me) of taking home a woman who leaves him for dead in the street.

Yeah, it's convoluted. It's not really funny. It's not poignant in any twisted or warped sense of the term. There are some sentiments expressed which make the dialog more tolerable but for the most part there is really only one reason to watch this movie. Tomei glitters across the screen as a woman whose purpose is nothing more than the be the catalyst for the deaths of other people, based on the principle that she's a "vengeful" woman. Why she's vengeful isn't defined, but by the time the movie winds around to an even more implausible ending than it started with, you don't really care. What the movie manages to do is sell the point that as human beings, while we're wired to want to copulate with as many people as possible, it's just not ultimately worth the toll that it takes on us. If we were still living in the jungles, we'd all be dead and without a single floral centerpiece to celebrate that fact.

Favorite Scene:

The multiple funerals in which you can tell that the only alteration to the set was the satin banner across the flower wreath.

Favorite Line:

"Jesus. Is suicide a female rite of passage or something?"

"Women are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide and males are 4 times more likedly to succeed, so you're bound to meet more female attempters because the male attempters are just... dead."

Trivia Tidbit:

This was the first full length feature that actor Fisher Stevens directed. He's been close friends with actress Marisa Tomei since the filming of 1994's ONLY YOU.

See if you liked:

THE RULES OF ATTRACTION, SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK, SAVING FACE

10 ATTITUDES (2001)
Directed by: Michael O. Gallant
Starring: Jason Stuart, Christopher Cowan

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I don't watch a lot of TV. There's something about dedicating a time slot in my life to a group of fictional characters that just doesn't hold the appeal that it once did when I was younger. I haven't watched a regular series for about 4 years now. Even back then it was spotty at best. I've been more a fan of the non-scripted or "reality" shows as they're more commonly referred to. Call me a voyeur, I don't mind. I think there's something charming to be able to gaze into people's lives and watch them posture and flinch in front of the camera. I think that's why when I do get a chance to indulge a little time in front of the boob tube (other than to watch a DVD) it's usually to soak in silly shows like "Blind Date," the kind of stuff that allows you to sit in on a short time in a couple of strangers' lives.

10 ATTITUDES is very much like that show. In fact, the opening credits look much like some low-budget training video on the introduction to the gay life style. Throughout the movie the music remains unbelievably shitty and for the first few awkward minutes I was almost positive that I was going to shut the movie off and watch one of the other discs that I had in my stack. However, somewhere around the time that the lead character arrives at his sister's home to bitch about the fact that his boyfriend of 10 years just dumped him for a much younger guy, I was intrigued. That feeling remained. It's a mixture of curiosity and that voyeurism that I mentioned above, as there really isn't a whole lot else that should have kept me watching. The script is painfully bad when it's forced (the scenes play out better when it appears that the actors are improvising), the lighting is horrendous and the situations are just as fairy tale as they would have been in a straight comedy.

And I think that's what finally sold me on the movie. I'm a person who's all about fairness. I think that if you treat one person one way then that's the way you should treat everyone else until they prove you different. So why should movies about gay romances be any less cheesy or hopelessly hopeful than straight romance flicks? Why is it that if you're gay you automatically jump into bed with someone or (conversely) spend the entire length of a flick proclaiming that you're gay and then acting completely sexless for the remainder? This movie is light weight fluff, it just so happens that the fluff features men looking for men, men kissing men and men talking about having sex with men. And even with all of its silly moments, there are some real genuine circumstances where you feel for the characters involved. Plus, who could really pass up a movie featuring David Faustino (most notably recognized as having been Bud Bundy on "Married with Children") asking if he can have gay sex for the sake of the kink that his girlfriend wants to live out? Not me, that's for sure.

Favorite Scene:

When Guy #2 is flipping through teen pop magazines and starts discussing the band N'SYNC and crosses out the picture of Lance Bass, the member who later came out as being gay.

Favorite Line:

"Why don't you stick a glowstick up your ass?"
"Now you're just flirting!"

Trivia Tidbit:

Comedienne Judy Tenuta is in the movie both as herself in a scene in the gay pride parade as well as the relationship therapist in later scenes.

See if you liked:

SHORTBUS, HAPPY ENDINGS, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

Even though these movies aren't 100% up to snuff, you have to admit that they're far more realistic than say... UNTAMED HEART (Oh, Marisa... you really had me in the beginning up until that one) or... Hmm. We need more gay romances. Yeah, I said it.

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