Michael Ward on Friday, May 17
The micro-budget romantic drama, Good Kisser, tells the story of Jenna and Kate (Kari Alison Hodge, Rachel Paulson), en route to spend the night/have a date with a third woman, Mia (Julia Eringer).
After being together for two years, this is an escalation to spice up their relationship, but the couple are at different places with the decision, even if they seem driven by the somewhat taboo nature of what they have committed to. Jenna’s anxiousness is initially chalked up to nervousness, while Kate takes a more explorative approach. Naturally, Mia is open and affirming to both women as they meet and settle back in for an evening at Mia’s home.
Written and directed by Wendy Jo Carlton, Good Kisser focuses on that evening, and largely plays out in Mia’s home. A noisy, bored neighbor (Carter Rodriquez) interjects here and there, but mostly the three women carry every scene with terrific chemistry and realism.
The main performances are authentic and strong. Eringer providing a perfect pivot point for both Hodge and Paulson to build chemistry with the longer the film plays out.
There are stretches were the movie stalls and feels repetitive. And there feels like a few too many scenes of doubt and hesitancy along the way, especially shared between Jenna and Kate. Secrets do emerge and truths are revealed, and Jenna and Kate begin to question why Mia is there in the first place.
Sensual and seductive, there is a unique cadence to the tone and pacing of Good Kisser that will work for some and frustrate others. Carlton does not shy away from letting her characters explore themselves and each other emotionally and physically. And yet, by the end, the film does feel somewhat predictable, telegraphing where Jenna and Kate will find themselves by the next day.
With that said, representation matters and films like Good Kisser offer a new, frank, and believable look at same-sex relationships and broader struggles inherent in all romantic relationships. Yes, the film could be sharper and less obvious, but with three terrific performances to focus our attention on, by the end of the film, we simply want these women to find the happiness they are looking for.
We feel a connection to them, and hope they can find something similar.
Good Kisser is playing May 17 and May 18 as part of the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival
(Purchase tickets now)