Prelude to a Kiss

(Norman René, USA, 1992)


Prelude to a Kiss is one of those films that sat on a distributor's shelf for quite a while before being meekly released to video in Australia, and it is not hard to tell why. It is rare to stumble across a romantic comedy as glum and unnerving as this.

The central premise is a lightly supernatural one, the kind we know from Ghost (1990) or Chances Are (1989). Rita (Meg Ryan) and Peter (Alec Baldwin) meet, fall in love, marry; then, at their wedding, Rita kisses a mysterious old man (Sydney Walker) and finds herself in his body, and vice versa.

Director Norman René and writer Craig Lucas (who previously collaborated on Longtime Companion [1990]) load a great deal of baggage onto this mystical love story. First they explore modern love and its manners – particularly Rita's apocalyptic fear of life. Then they focus on Peter and his paranoid relation to his unusual bride, suggesting that no two people ever truly know each other.

Then it's time for the film to dabble in queer cinema, as Peter strives to love his partner even when she is inside the body of an old man. Finally, when the plot laboriously works itself out, we arrive at the feel-good terrain of life lessons and mutual affirmation. Nothing, however, can quite shake off the chill of the previous one hundred minutes.

© Adrian Martin May 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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