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‘French Kiss’ (PG-13)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 05, 1995

There's an unmistakable genre at work in "French Kiss." Call it the Meg Ryan movie. Whatever the story, whatever the situation, Ryan— Doris Day for the '90s—finds love and happiness.

As with Julia Roberts, most people feel good about the button-nosed, dimply Ryan no matter what she does. She secretes cuteness as if suffering from an overactive pituitary gland. She's so perky, she ought to ice-skate for America. And in Lawrence Kasdan's latest, which also stars Kevin Kline and Timothy Hutton, she gives you nothing more or less than herself.

Engaged to Toronto doctor Hutton, Ryan adores her fiance so much that she wants Canadian citizenship. Clearly, there's something wrong with this relationship. Hutton gives her the inevitable bad news soon enough: He's fallen in love with a va-va-voom French woman (Susan Anbeh) he met in Paris and intends to live with her forever.

Ryan—perkily distraught—books a flight across the Atlantic. But on the plane, she finds herself next to Kline, a stubbled, cigarette-smoking Frenchman who sounds suspiciously like Inspector Clouseau.

"Why do I hate Paris?" Ryan sings to herself, as if a timid, recently jettisoned woman would burst into attention-getting song. "Because my fiance is there with his slut girlfriend."

Kline picks up on this easy cue and a screwball relationship is immediately born. Ryan's nervous about flying, upset at being deserted and determined that true love exists. Kline, a romantic cynic with a certain sexual-performance problem of late, thinks Ryan is doing everything wrong.

"You are afraid of life, you are afraid of love, you are afraid of sex," he tells her.

"Do I look like the kind of person that doesn't like to have a good time?" she pleads.

And so on. Kline, a professional thief, is smuggling two things back to France: a diamond-encrusted necklace and a vine cutting. One is for business, the other for a vineyard he hopes to start. Stashing both items in Ryan's pocketbook (to ensure safe passage through customs), he's obliged to follow Ryan until he can retrieve his contraband. Naturally, this takes up most of the movie, as Ryan—busy dogging Hutton and his French bombshell—goes from the swanky Hotel George V in Paris to Cannes.

Ryan's endearment gland works overtime. Among the many Ryanesque moments is a transparent attempt to duplicate the infamous orgasm scene from "When Harry Met Sally . . ." After binging on cheese in the restaurant car of a southbound train, she suffers a lactose-intolerance fit. "SPASM! SPASM!" she yells, raising Gallic eyebrows everywhere. Then there's her clean-cut mystique. After her purse and suitcase are stolen (hey, this happens early), she spends days and nights in the same clothes. But every morning, that white blouse is miraculously pressed and spanking white, and the navy-blue jacket looks as bright and clean as ever. Maybe it's the French air and then again, maybe it's just written into her contract.

FRENCH KISS (PG-13) — Contains sexual situations but no nudity.

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