Susan Granger’s review of “Just a Kiss” (Paramount Classics)
Actor Fisher Stevens makes an auspicious directing debut with this quirky, surreal relationship comedy that integrates live action with animation. The theme is infidelity and the choices we make. Dag (Ron Eldard) is a promiscuous TV commercial director with an easy-going live-in relationship with the bright and beautiful Halley (Kyra Sedgwick). His best-friend is Peter (Patrick Breen), an actor renown for his American Classic Peanut Butter commercial, who’s besotted by Rebecca (Marley Shelton), a lusty but suicidal ballet-dancer with a deliciously imperious diva mother (Zoe Caldwall). One night in Europe, when Dag happens to catch one of Rebecca’s performances, sparks ignite. “This is going to be one of those terrible mistakes, the kind you can’t take back,” he murmurs. Indeed, the unpredictable consequences of their one-night stand are enormous. Shocked and hurt at Dag’s indiscretion, Halley moves out, seeking refuge in a friend’s apartment to which Andre (Taye Diggs), a philosophical cellist, also has a key – and predictably, there’s some canoodling. Meanwhile, Andre’s sexy wife Colleen (Sarita Choudhury) just happens to be the stewardess on a plane with Peter, who is being stalked by a vengeful, deceptively psychotic bowling-alley attendant (Marisa Tomei). Screenwriter/actor Patrick Breen is obviously familiar with the regret that plagues these neurotic thirtysomething New Yorkers, while Fisher Stevens deftly juggles the ensemble cast while intercutting some weird, whimsical fantasy sequences. The visually stylish concept is reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” – and it’s R-rated for vivid sexual imagery and language. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Just a Kiss” is a flimsy yet fateful 5, exploring the ironic price one pays for cheating.