Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
I KISSED A GIRL (TOUTE PREMIÈRE FOIS) | 98 min | NR
Directed by: Maxime Govare and Noémie Saglio
Starring: Pio Marmaï, Franck Gastambide, Adrianna Gradziel, Lannick Gautry, Isabelle Candelier, Nicole Ferroni, Etienne Guiraud, Camille Cottin
Hollywood can barely get a handle on good gay comedies – so why should the French be any different? That’s the overwhelming feeling I KISSED A GIRL imparts on its audience. This screwball comedy is more convoluted and problematic than THE NEXT BEST THING and THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION combined – and that’s saying a lot. Feeling like an affront to homosexuality, this is a straight-up (please pardon the phrase) “fag hag” fairytale.
When we first meet thirty-something Jeremy (Pio Marmaï) he’s racked with anguish, guilt-riddled over a one-night stand with beautiful Swedish blonde / quintessential Manic Pixie Dream Girl Adna (Adrianna Gradziel). Before we’re out of the opening credits, we learn why; he’s been in a healthy, loving and monogamous relationship for the past ten years with his fiancé – mon Dieu – Antoine (Lannick Gautry), a cardio-vascular surgeon. Jeremy spirals: A cursory search of a sketchy internet chat board reveals “there’s no such thing as bi-sexuality” (something Jeremy astoundingly references later as his own belief). He misappropriates corporate resources to fund a fruitless study on if “a one-night stand can change your life”(which is essentially the tagline to this film). Finally, Jeremy decides to confess to his best friend/ business partner Charlie (Franck Gastambide). His advice? Jeremy should continue to see Adna to find out whether or not the attraction is real. However, the deeper into the wedding plans Jeremy gets, the more the romance with Adna blooms.
The sentiments espoused in I KISSED A GIRL feel oddly and maddeningly retro and not reflective of France’s (or our current times’) progressiveness. Charlie uses a trite football analogy to reduce Jeremy’s sexual identity crisis to the almost ordinary, whereas this is clearly a complex issue. Maxime Govare and Noémie Saglio’s screenplay is incredibly offensive on so many levels. Antoine is relegated to the generic girlfriend supporting role. Their sassy friend who paints art Georgia O’Keefe would call “gauche,” Nounours (Sébastien Castro), is an amalgam of gay stereotypes rolled into one. Even the non-gay characters are reduced to cartoonish tropes. Boorish Charlie is an obnoxious womanizing cad who insults his lady love, officer manager Clemence (Camille Cottin, the film’s sole bright-spotlit revelation), twice – and even worse, she’s got such low self esteem that she takes him back. Jeremy’s pushy mother (Isabelle Candelier), neurotic sister (Nicole Ferroni) and wimpy brother-in-law (Etienne Guiraud) all also fare poorly. Don’t even get me started on all of Adna’s MPDG eccentricities; her stripping in public, driving on the sidewalk and holding a not-on-Halloween costume party is enough to make Zooey Deschanel shout “we get it!”
Worst of all is that Govare and Saglio have seemingly forgotten to add “the funny.” Time and time again, scenes play in a dry, droll and completely flat manner. While they never go overboard on the broad humor that’s inherent to their concept, they never play the correct scenarios for any humor whatsoever. From Charlie flopping his junk around in the locker room, to Adna’s rote “zany hijinks,” to Jeremy’s family dinners, the things the filmmakers think are funny simply aren’t. Plus, Mathieu Lamboley’s score, meant to complement the snowballing shenanigans and magical romcommy elements, is pushy and obtrusive.
I KISSED A GIRL preaches a distorted mentality of “I can change him.” My mentality is “I want to change this movie.”
1 out of 5
I KISSED A GIRL (TOUTE PREMIÈRE FOIS) played ColCoa on April 27. It opened in France on January 28. It has no US release date.