Movie: THE GIRL WHO INVENTED KISSING
Rating: not rated
Release Date: open
Jeanne: Is it possible for a pretty 20-something drifter with no name to befriend a lonely older man who is mildly impaired mentally? The answer is, according to Tom Sierchio, who wrote and directs "The Girl Who Invented Kissing", yes --- and I would have to agree. Sierchio proves through his heartfelt screenplay that love is possible on many levels.
Victor (Dash Mihok) is "slow" due to an "act of God" when he was a boy. He lives with his younger brother, Jimmy (Vincent Piazza), and "helps" him run the family business, a townie bar with its requisite regulars. His life is monotonously routine until a drug-using young woman (Suki Waterhouse) chooses their small town of Bloomfield, New Jersey to step off her bus and into Victor's life.
"The Girl Who Invented Kissing" is not without its problems, but Sierchio wields a deft hand in showcasing his own writing. There is a great risk in this material becoming too overly sentimental, but Sierchio restrains his actors and himself, allowing the genuineness of his female protagonist to resonate with the audience.
Victor is such a gentle soul, we recognize immediately that he is incapable of hurting anyone. Not the same can be said of Jimmy, who's having an affair with nurse Patti (Abbie Cornish). Her husband, Freddy (Johnny Messner), is the local tough-guy cop, someone Jimmy definitely does not want to upset. Not to worry, because Freddy is having his own illicit relationship.
Everyone in this village appears to be bored out of their minds, including Leo (Luke Wilson) who runs the local record store where Victor shops every day for a "new" Hank Snow album, even though the country singer has been dead for many years. Victor is such a HUGE fan of Snow's, that when his new friend informs him he can call her by any name, Victor chooses "the girl who invented kissing" after one of Snow's hit songs, "The Gal Who Invented Kissing".
Waterhouse makes a valiant effort portraying the unlikely street smart, wise-cracking druggie who ingratiates herself into the lives of these dull people. Mostly her performance is acceptable, quite believable in fact, but every so often she slips up, giving way to what some may suspect are her character's ulterior motives.
Mihok and Piazza play together well. Mihok, especially, is endearing as the big "lummox" --- everyone's private name for him, and one which he resents. Even Jimmy resorts to using that derogatory term, and Victor defends himself beautifully. Each actor brings his own sensitivity to these two emotional parts. Their relationship and the reason for Victor's stunted psychological growth is the crux of "The Girl Who Invented Kissing".
But it is Victor's friendship with "the girl" which provides the warmth and joy in "The Girl Who Invented Kissing". Waterhouse and Mihok are at their best when they are only interacting with each other. It is a lovely touching romance, of sorts, and one that doesn't devolve into something smarmy or fantastical.
The ensemble is well cast and Sierchio's script has some very special moments. You will not be disappointed.
Opinion: See It Now!
David: "The Girl Who Invented Kissing" is the creation of writer/director Tom Sierchio. I can tell you after a short amount of time watching this film, I was completely hooked. The story of two brothers who own a bar together, and whose lives are changed when a pretty drifter comes to their town, is a slice-of-life film that could take place anywhere in America. The movie is exceedingly well written and acted, and the editing is as good as it gets.
Sierchio grew up in Bloomfield, a working class town in New Jersey, which is the setting for his movie, and it shows in this, his directorial debut. Jimmy (Vincent Piazza) and Victor (Dash Mihok) own The Oak. Jimmy is the younger brother --- the handsome one --- who tends bar and keeps the books. Victor is a hulking man --- a bit mentally challenged due to a car accident many years earlier --- who carries beer kegs around like they're six packs.
When "the girl" (Suki Waterhouse) shows up at The Oak to use the bathroom, she immediately emits an aura of beauty to the dive bar and its mostly male denizens. Jimmy senses it right away, and Victor, not exactly schooled in charming the ladies, is immediately smitten. But "the girl" is a druggie, using The Oak's facilities to smoke weed and snort cocaine, much to Jimmy's chagrin.
Watching "The Girl Who Invented Kissing" is like being a fly on the wall observing how Jimmy and Victor interact with each other, and their circle of friends. One of those is Patti, a pretty woman ably played by Abbie Cornish, whose marriage is threatened by an illicit affair. And we quickly learn that the boys were raised by their grandmother, whose picture is hung prominently on the bar's front wall --- their parents did not survive the accident that affected Victor.
The film has a sweetness to it that belies its outward appearance. Jimmy loves his brother, but is often frustrated taking care of him. Victor is a loveable "lummox" --- a term used in the film to describe his character --- and thanks to a luminous performance by Mihok, we care deeply for Victor's well being. His obsession with country legend Hank Snow --- and his constant nagging of record store owner Leo, played comically deadpan by Luke Wilson --- proves that Sierchio has a true knack for diverting his audience with more than straight drama.
Waterhouse's turn as the mysterious girl wins us over a bit more gradually. While her attachment to Victor is predictable, it is still
heartwarming, and gives Mihok a chance to exhibit his character's vulnerability.
Piazza, who will be recognized by "Boardwalk Empire" fans as Lucky Luciano, also renders a solid, completely natural portrayal of a man who has a big secret that will get him into some very hot water when it is revealed later in the story. He proves in this film that he can play a softie just as well as a tough guy.
I truly loved this film. It deserves a chance at wide distribution, and I believe audiences will appreciate its pathos, heart, and good humor.
Opinion: See It Now!