Admittedly, I quite enjoyed Gabriele Muccino’s 2002 effort, The Last Kiss, finding it entertaining despite its pretentiousness and derivative style. Though it completely ignored many consequences of its characters’ infidelities and betrayals, it didn’t necessarily advocate the forgiveness of these reprehensible acts, indicated by the film’s final sequence that assured us the repercussions of its protagonist’s affair with a high schooler would soon catch up with him. Kiss Me Again, Muccino’s attempt at his own Before Sunset, picks up 10 years later as its characters are haunted by their actions, but are eventually let off the hook by a director who can’t help but give in, like a parent allowing his child to keep the toy he stole from his neighbor if he pouts long enough.
Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) is looking for second chances as he makes his way back to Rome from a 10-year international hiatus from his family; actually, he really just wants the opportunity to reclaim his status as father to the son he abandoned, but couldn’t care less about the wife he left in his dust, claiming “she’s still the bitch she was.” Still, his story remains the most interesting of the bunch thanks to the humbleness of the down-and-out Adriano compared to the smug late-thirtysomethings that comprise rest of the cast. Carlo (Stefano Accorsi), attempting to win back his wife Giulia (Vittoria Puccini) after she reciprocates his infidelity, manages to keep his sense of entitlement while he complains, cries, and begs. The “old-fashioned” Marco (Pierfrancesco Favino) proves what kind of man he is when he threatens to kill his wife if she were to ever cheat on him, yet sits by idly as she goes off and boinks a younger guy. Then there’s Paolo (Claudio Santamaria), morbidly depressed because…well, that’s never really clear, even with Muccino’s lazy single-sentence attempt to explain it, coming across as more annoying than sympathetic. If you didn’t like these guys the first time around, you’ll despise them now, and the women, more integral to the sequel’s plots, exist as uninteresting, wishy-washy, helpless shells of characters. Even the more amusing Alberto (Marco Cocci) has lost his relevance; in The Last Kiss, Muccino rhythmically and skillfully inserted the supporting character into the story, but when he occasionally pops up in Kiss Me Again, you’ve forgotten he was actually in the film to begin with, his story lacking any connection to the other plot threads.
Most disconcertingly, the film begins as a story of ramifications for wrongdoings but ends as a near-celebration in the name of doing whatever the heck you want, consequences be damned. Characters betray one other, whine about it, then sit back and wait for circumstances to work in their favor so they can swoop back in and pick up where they left off. Extraneous boyfriends and girlfriends are conveniently disposable and sometimes recyclable for the sake of re-hooking up the important people, and it’s almost nauseating how Muccino wants us to revel in the fact that these nearly unlikable characters get exactly what they want.
Kiss Me Again will play on June 6 as part of this year’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema. For details about the festival, including ticketing information, click here.