French Kiss

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
French Kiss Movie Poster Image
Formulaic romcom is fine for teens and up.
  • PG-13
  • 1995
  • 111 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie has interesting things to say of what a life partner should bring out in his or her beloved, and how being in a safe relationship that doesn’t challenge you much but is nevertheless comfortable isn’t as ideal as it sounds. Still, it promotes the usual magical, but unrealistic, expectations we tend to place on love: that it be glamorous, combative, and difficult. Also, Kate is chasing after a man who has humiliated her, without regard to her own self-worth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A man pretends to be friendly with a woman, but he’s only using her (at least, at first). Portrayals of the French and Canadians border on stereotype sometimes. A woman buys into the idea that a woman must “win” her man back, even if he has disrespected her and left her for someone else. But she also ultimately discovers that she ought to be appreciated for herself, just as she is.

Violence

A woman throws money at a man’s face. A man chokes another to get information out of him.

Sex

A man discusses the sexual habits of a woman he just met (enraging her); another commits infidelity. Sexual innuendoes pepper conversations; subjects include erectile dysfunction. A soulful French (natch!) kiss. Couples tryst in the shadows (moaning and kissing sounds).

Language

From “bastard” to “bitch” to “a--hole” to “s--t” (or “bull---t”).

Consumerism

Stoli, Georges V, Cartier.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of using pot (though a nasty consequence is the end of the anecdote). A man breaks up with his girlfriend while inebriated. Passengers imbibe hard liquor while flying. A woman jeopardizes her Canadian residency application because she once smoked weed and was arrested. Plenty of smoking. Also, wine- and champagne-drinking at social and celebratory occasions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this comedy has a woman chasing after a man who not only has rejected her, but has also admitted to cheating on her. Yet somehow she feels she has to prove to him that she’s much more worthy of his attentions than her ultra-glamorous rival, further cementing the idea that women a) should vie for a man’s affections and, b) can overlook major transgressions in the pursuit of someone who validates them. Her other romantic option is a boorish man whom she detests -- yes, yet another "opposites attract" cliché. That said, it does support, in the end, the message that women need not be prototypically sexy to be appealing; that being comfortable in your own skin and quirks is even better. There’s also some swearing, and sexual innuendoes that may be too mature for tweens and younger.

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What's the story?

What a blow neurotic Kate (Meg Ryan), a teacher, has been dealt: Her beloved Canadian fiancée Charlie (Timothy Hutton) has jetted off to Paris and fallen madly in love with a French woman. Determined to talk some sense into him, she follows suit, but the trip takes a bumpy turn after she meets Luc, a boorish French con man (Kevin Kline) who ropes her into his mess by planting contraband on her. Can he undo the damage before they’re caught and, more important, will Kate woo Charlie back?

Is it any good?

Meg Ryan is clearly charismatic, no less here than in her other romantic comedies. Here, her prickly uptight-ness in this film is winning, but it’s no different than her Sally in When Harry Met Sally --a realization that, frankly, diminishes the enjoyment of her performance. Also, her Kate is maddening, what with her proclaiming not to be a typical woman, whatever that means, yet she’s chasing an unfaithful man. (A doormat, no matter how offbeat and beguiling, is still a doormat.) Besides, FRENCH KISS suffers from the delusion that befalls most romantic comedies: the message that antagonism ought to be a major ingredient between great lovers. Enough already.

But she -- and the movie -- are a delight; Ryan and Kline share a fair amount of chemistry sometimes, though not always, supported by witty repartee. (Kline’s accent puzzlingly careens from charming to atrocious.) A sample: Kate, explaining how she and Charlie fell in love: “It wasn’t exactly a thunderclap or a lightning bolt, it was more like a …” Luc: “Light drizzle?” And then, there’s the location: France, specifically Paris and Cannes, is simply gorgeous. They’re almost enough to make up for the movie’s weak spots.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Kate’s fixation on Charlie, despite his transgression. Does it seem a worthwhile chase?

  • How is this film different from other romantic comedies? How is it similar? Does it break the mold at all?

Movie details

For kids who love romance

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