By Gordon Foote.
Well, thank God they gave me this to review in the same week that Nintendo finally released Earthbound in Europe, otherwise it would have been a real slog. At last, the WiiU’s second screen makes sense!
Ok, so A Thousand Kisses Deep is the story of Mia, a woman who, eight years ago, got out of a life-destroyingly abusive relationship with her boss, jazz club owner ‘Ludwig’ (how wonderfully Bohemian). Mia’s life is moving on gradually, until an elderly woman in her building jumps from a window and is found with a photograph of Ludwig on her when they scrape her off the asphalt.
What follows is a bizarre jaunt through some of the defining moments of Mia’s life which all appear to have, simultaneously, taken up residence in the same building as her present self, but she hasn’t noticed until now: It’s a bit like an entire movie wrapped around the lift/memory building metaphor from Inception.
Add to this a lift with a mind of its own which appears to be some kind of forerunner to the phone-booths in Bill and Ted, and a Janitor/Building Supervisor who evidently knows exactly what is going on but has adopted fortune cookie speak, as all spiritual/temporal advisers seem contractually obliged to do, and you have a film that sounds fascinating, if quirky.
Sadly, it’s not.
How not? Well, so far this 84 minute film has taken me 2h13mins to watch and I still have 15minutes to go, due to me pausing regularly and having an amble as a direct result of poor pacing, excruciatingly embarrassing scenes which go on far too long, equally awkward scenes of abusing relationships, and a script which makes less sense that you’re average friendly, neighbourhood drunk. What’s worse is that I am approaching my tea limit for the day which gives me scant reason to get up again anytime soon. Oh, well, time to stop whinging, put on the big-boy pants, and power through to the end of this monster. Never know; maybe it’ll surprise me…
Nope. Still terrible.
Right…let’s do some reviewing….force the bile down….deep breaths…go.
Dana Lustig’s 2011 Sci-fi lite/Romantic Drama, A Thousand Kisses Down, is not a good film. Worse, it’s a bad film that thinks it’s a lot cleverer than it is, giving it a slightly smug air. Throughout its blessedly brief runtime, it seems that poignancy and deep undercurrents of meaning are just a scene away that, any second now, the script will make that final jump and hit what it’s so desperately striving towards, but it never makes it; the insight never materialises. This leaves the viewer with a mess of half-explained ideas, unlikeable characters, and a central message which is entirely undercut by the films own ‘shock’ ending.
On the upside, performances all round are robust, dragging what characterisation can be salvaged from such copy-paste favourites as “Drunk Mum”, “Asshole musician”, “Soft-spoken, liberal Dad”, and “Weak-willed, mildly irritating female protagonist”. Here is where one of the main story problems arises. Wading through Mia’s emotional baggage is only interesting if she is…and she isn’t, and neither are most of the people around her. Instead we’re forced to take part in a voyeuristic return to some of Mia’s own most painful memories; it forges a deeply uncomfortable bond between the audience and the person whose ‘side’ we are clearly meant to be on.
Sitting on grown-up Mia’s shoulder while she watches her own ninth birthday party where soft-spoken dad attempts to entertain a room of despondent children while drunk mum broods in the kitchen smoking and child-weak-willed protagonist hides in the cupboard claiming that she is soooo above this kids stuff, is one of the most awkward, embarrassing, and uncomfortable scenes I have ever had to sit through. I felt embarrassed for Dad, doing his best to make his little girls party a success and failing miserably, I felt embarrassed for mini-Mia whose friends can only have taken her to pieces at school the following Monday, and I felt sorry for Adult-Mia who, with the gift of hindsight, is trapped watching her family unravel from a third-person perspective. Awkward viewing is not my idea of entertainment…especially when the scene never ends, and the sole purpose of my discomfort appears to be to reinforce information I already had about the character tropes.
In short, the script is woefully under-equipped to support the films admirably ambitious premise. It seems to spend the majority of the short run time (I really can’t thank them enough for not making this a three-hour epic) ramming the words “YOUCANNOT CHANGE YOUR PAST” down the audience’s throats, before ending on a “Well…unless you really want to” note, which the film doesn’t feel the need to elaborate on….that said, there is a foreshadowing moment to the ending, which they either forgot about, or decided not to refer back to, but whatever. I gave up assuming this film was going to make sense somewhere around my fourth cup of tea.
In conclusion, squandered opportunities are always difficult to cope with. Wasted ideas sting worse than almost anything in cinema; take last month’s World War Z, for example. It was, by no means, a bad movie, but has blocked the option of a faithful adaptation of the superb book being made for at least the next five years. A Thousand Kisses Deep commits a similar sin. It promises so, so much, a strong, interesting central concept, and delivering so very, very little.
I’ve taken this bullet for you – avoid. Don’t worry about it, buy me a drink some time.
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