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Poor Charley - tough decision ...
on 4 April 2003
We've seen it before (WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE) and since (YOU HAVE MAIL), but Meg Ryan is indisputably The Right One for this cutesy-yet-not-too-slushy romantic comedy lark ... although the even lovelier Sandra Bullock (WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING) can do it, too ...!
Aviophobic bride-to-be Kate (Meg Ryan) is enthusiastically preparing for the lavish wedding when her fiancé flies off to Paris on a medical conference ... only to 'phone-in a few days later with the startling announcement that Kate should cease wedding arrangements forthwith as ... he has fallen in love with a Frenchwoman. Disbelievingly, Kate faces her mortal fear of flying to get to Paris and shake him out of his infatuation. On the aeroplane she sits next to petty thief Luc Teyssier (Kevin Kline - Gérard Dépardieu declined the rôle). Exchanging stereotypical national dislikes, it is hate at first sight.
Or is it ...? Ryan is ever-cuddly and ever-so-slightly-ditzy, whilst Kline is perfectly-accented and stubbled, oozing a pretty darn convincing Gallic charm. Kate's rebuttals by the Georges Cinq's stoic Concièrge - she puts down 100 Francs as a bribe; he simply takes it - are a treat. And so is her animated air-fighting following the theft of her luggage - "Oh man ... ma stuff, man ..." Almost as a fil rouge, Kate's wanderings through the City of Light include constantly not seeing the Eiffel Tower ... until she is on a train leaving Paris.
Kate's earlier opinion of loser Luc turns via promiscuous rascal to grudging respect upon discovering that he is, in fact, a Man With A Plan, from a background in fine wine - that moment is quite poignant ... Hovering in the background is avuncular detective-sergeant Jean (Léon) Réno who is aware of Luc's family history as well as his current jewellery-smuggling, but who owes Luc a never-fully-explained life debt. It is he who actually rescues the mis-matched couple ...
Anybody who says "They don't make 'em like they used to ..." should swallow those ill-chosen words as the 1990s have produced endearing romantic comedies to counter the numerous over-the-top petroleum-jelly & mayhem Action Blockbusters. FRENCH KISS may be a trifle formulaic, but its superbly-nostalgic soundtrack - Charles Trenet's rendition of Verlaine's 'Blesse mon coeur' is wonderfully evocative of an autumn stroll in Paris - and the fine interaction between Ryan and Kline help make this one of the more memorable and heartwarming feel-good films of the decade.