Kiss Me Again -- Film Review

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"Men on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" would be a more fitting title for Gabriele Muccino's latest film, "Kiss Me Again," the sequel to his hugely popular "The Last Kiss," which not only topped the Italian boxoffice but also won the 2002 Sundance Audience Award and inspired an American remake. This film could easily sweep up with the public again, and will have even greater international appeal given the director's US hits, "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Seven Pounds." But that doesn't make "Kiss Me Again" a solid or even enjoyable film.

Ten years later, the group of friends from "The Last Kiss" is back and pushing 40: Carlo (Stefano Accorsi) and Giulia (Vittoria Puccini, who replaces Giovanna Mezzogiorno and is visibly 10 years younger than the rest) are separated after years of his infidelity, and will soon be divorced although he wants her back; the marriage between stuffy, wealthy Marco (Pierfrancesco Favino) and Veronica (Daniela Piazza) is also shaky after years of unsuccessfully trying to have a child; Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) returns to Rome after 10 years and some jail time, after having run out on his newborn son and wife Livia (Sabrina Impacciatore), who is now involved with Paolo (Claudio Santamaria), who still lives at home and is struggling with serious depression; and Alberto (Marco Cocci) works in a supermarket, sleeps with countless women and still spouts on about moving to Brazil, because settling down means selling out.

If the plot sounds like a soap opera, the film feels like one. Muccino has always made melodramas, but his American outings have been much more restrained. Here, as in "The Last Kiss" and "Remember Me," character arcs range from near-hysteria to full-blown histrionics. Most scenes end in tears or shouting, making "Kiss Me Again" a nearly two-and-a-half-hour parade of overwrought performances from a cast that is capable of much more. Even little kids go from zero to 100 in seconds, or accompany steely-eyed gazes with lines like "You abandoned me when I wasn't even a year old ... ."

Thankfully, "Kiss Me Again" is gentler with its women than its predecessor. They're still various degrees of bitchy, but mostly because they're exasperated by the men's never-ending irresponsibility and/or lack of comprehension. Another saving grace is Favino, one of Italy's best film actors, and too often underrated. Despite Marco's fascist leanings, Favino effortlessly makes him the most sympathetic of the bunch and draws the most heartfelt laughs.

Muccino's Italian films are often praised for their Hollywood production values, but once again his work has a polished surface that, unfortunately, belies a weak, repetitive foundation. To top it all off, he even "borrows" from "We All Loved Each Other So Much," using one of the main locations from Ettore Scola's masterpiece and staging a watered-down version of key scenes from the older film. With all due respect to the actors of "Kiss Me Again," they cannot compare to Vittorio Gassman, Nino Manfredi and Stefano Satta Flores. Nor does Muccino come close to portraying today's society the way Scola captured with poetic mastery the Italy of yesterday.

Production companies: Fandango, Mars Film, Medusa
Sales: Fandango Portobello Sales
Cast: Stefano Accorsi, Vittoria Puccini, Pierfrancesco Favino, Claudio Santamaria, Giorgio Pasotti, Marco Cocci, Sabrina Impacciatore, Daniela Piazza, Adriano Giannini, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Director/Screenwriter: Gabriele Muccino
Producer: Domenico Procacci
Director of photography: Arnaldo Catinari
Production designer: Eugenia Di Napoli
Music: Paolo Buonvino
Costume designers: Angelica Russo, Gemma Mascagni
Editor: Claudio Di Mauro
No rating, 140 minutes
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