Retro Movie Review: 'French Kiss' (1995)

Where has all of the romance gone? For the past 10 years, quality romantic comedies have been difficult, if not impossible to come by. “French Kiss” serves as a time capsule to a better era. The year was 1995 and America’s sweetheart was Meg Ryan, the reigning queen of the rom-com genre.

Having seen many of her films, Ryan has always projected the goofy charm of a woman who does not let her social awkwardness hinder her self-confidence. It’s this dichotomy that has comprised so much of her personal appeal, as her characterizations have always been something that a lot of women could identify with.

As endearing as most of her comedies have been, the struggle has been having a male presence that works as a screen partner, screwy enough to not be the straight man and calm enough to counterbalance her effervescent screen energy. She definitely found her match in the mega-talented Kevin Kline.

This is the best screen pairing that I can recall her having and looking back it was one of her career’s greatest missed opportunities that they never re-collaborated, when her career was still vibrant. They really seemed to feed off of each other’s energy in an extraordinary way. As a result, their characters and romance are actually worth rooting for - a rarity in such fare.

Without Kline’s sensational performance as the dapper, French con-man this film would not have packed the same punch. Also of note is his French accent that is so spot-on, I had to double check his IMDB page (he’s from Minnesota).

An actor with a strong combination of charm and the skill to disappear into a role is hard to come by and Kline has that ability in spades. Having missed his film presence in recent years, “French Kiss” is a welcomed reminder of when he had an ample display for his talent.

Personally, anytime a film goes oversees, it is a treat. Watching the all-American Ryan, travel to France and humorously explore the differences between the two cultures works as a comedic element, without going overboard.

Director Lawrence Kasdan keeps a sharp narrative voice throughout the film and never lets a moment overstay its welcome. The beautiful cinematography captures all of the French joie de vivre and romance that composes the country’s iconic atmosphere.

The supporting cast is magnificent. Jean Reno (“Leon: The Professional) and Francois Cluzet (“Tell No One”) bring the French flair with their rabid charisma and comedic timing. Timothy Hutton (“Secret Window”) is also effective as Ryan’s wayward fiancé. The intimate number of cast members, propels the film’s sleek and precision fueled pace. 

Few films can put the humor in a comedy and the romance in the overarching love story. This film succeeds with both of these goals. A romantic comedy, done well is a rarity these days. Thankfully, “French Kiss” will always be there to remind us of how entertaining they can be when they are done right. Rating: 8/10

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