[Outfest 2019 Review] Good Kisser Awkwardly Navigates Open Relationships
It doesn’t take long in Wendy Jo Carlton’s new film Good Kisser to realize that things are pretty doomed for the central couple. The awkwardness begins as girlfriends Jenna (Kari Alison Hodge) and Kate (Rachel Paulson) get into an Uber ride. Kate is positively beaming with anticipation and says, “I’m so glad we’re doing this.” But Jenna is anxious and wants to be anywhere except in this car ride. Turns out, they are heading to meet a woman named Mia (Julia Eringer) to open their relationship a bit.
The awkwardness continues at Mia’s house as the three hustle onto a sofa. Kate inserts herself between Jenn and Mia, but has edged closer to Mia in a subtle display that not everything is as cut-and-dry as Jenna thinks it is. Jenna has a ton of questions, but Kate quickly admonishes her, saying, “this isn’t an interview.” The house is hot. The A/C isn’t working. And Mia tries everything in her power to put the anxious Jenna at ease, but the moment Jenna goes outside for a breather, Kate is full-on smooching with Mia. “That’s not fair to your girlfriend,” Mia tells her, pulling away.
But the moment we know that things aren’t going to end well is when Jenna confides to Kate, “I don’t think I can do this” and Kate slips-up, replying, “If you feel bad then you can go.”
Staged mostly in Mia’s house, the movie feels structured more like a play than a movie. Carlton wants to make the most of her set, as characters are constantly on the move throughout the house, lingering maybe seconds in one part before darting into another. It gives the movie a very disjointed feel as conversations abruptly stall with a “let’s go over here” exclamation or a “let’s play spin the bottle downstairs” just seconds after going upstairs.
The central plot was interesting and was exploring interesting themes of intimacy and sexuality, but for every decision is gets right, there’s another one or two that just were...odd. At one point, Jenna go to the kitchen by herself, takes a watermelon out of the fridge, sits on the floor and proceeds to eat it with a spoon. And sometimes the dialogue is whip-smart and witty. But other times it makes me wonder how old these women are.
A literal agrument:
“I think you like her, like her.”
“You love her, love her.”
I’m waiting for them to pass notes with check boxes.
The soundtrack is a banging and eclectic mix of indie rock with some fantastic tracks like “Between the Lines” by ChackY YEN and “How Can I Be Sure” by Anomie Belle. The story actually grabbed my attention towards the end and I genuinely was concerned about how Jenna would navigate the situation she unwittingly found herself in. I really dug the ending. But man, was it rough to get there.