I wrote the following a while back:
“I was watching the poorly-received Over Her Dead Body (2008) the other night, (Rotten Tomatoes = 14%) and enjoying it, when, along toward the middle of the movie, Paul Rudd and Lake Bell realized that they were in love, and smooched. Then, pulling back, Rudd made a little joke about it. Ok, I understand that there is such a thing as a “script,” and that in this romantic comedy, the protagonists are keeping it light, but still… After Bell lays one on him, in a perfect world, wouldn’t Rudd have a few more stars in his eyes? So it occurred to me that his star power, so cool here, maybe was overmatching Lake’s, whereas if he had tried acting cool after a kiss with Angelina Jolie, say, he’d have looked like a schmo. Could it be that when we talk about the chemistry between a man and a woman in a romantic movie, we’re just comparing their relative star powers? If the luminescences match, the kiss works; otherwise, it doesn’t? So that Tom Hanks can’t give or receive a good smooch in his movies because he’s too big, starwise, for his leading ladies? The Fiennes brothers are good smoochers because they consistently hook up with medium-level female stars? Or how about Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook (2004) – there’s a star-power match. This requires further research.”
Watching The Proposal (2009) again the other night, I again pondered this kissing thing as Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds were required by the plot to smooch twice. Bullock was 45 when she made the movie, Reynolds 33. Age is never mentioned and Bullock is shot with vaseline on the lens. There is nothing wrong with romance between those of different ages, for sure, and the first Proposal kiss is thrust upon the couple while they still think that they hate each other (but then, after the brief kiss, their brows wrinkle for a moment…), so that kiss doesn’t count so much, chemistry-wise; but their final kiss, when they realize that they’re in love, during that kiss, I couldn’t help thinking that all through the movie, Bullock is presented as trim, youthful, gorgeous, the equal of Reynolds, who doffs his shirt to display his six pack and is in possession of the natural beauty that is the sweet bird of youth, whereas to my eye, knowing what it means to be 45, Bullock could be seen, especially in one moment of one shot, which the film editor probably just missed – just a few frames – to be, indisputably, Reynold’s senior, and I found myself contemplating, instead of the rosy future ahead of this couple in love, their impending frank discussions regarding what it will mean for them to be of different generations (born in the first half of the 60s vs the second half of the 70s), so to speak.
What I’m saying is, in this case at least, age differential took me out of the movie a little during the kissing time. Not so much as in Teacher’s Pet (1958), for example, wherein the concept of creepy kissing is introduced by the 57-year-old Clark Gable (and looking older. Movie stars of the 30s and 40s aged faster, which is one reason why there are a lot more woman working in their 40s and 50s and above today than there were then.) smooching with a 36-year-old Doris Day. Woody Allen/Michael Douglas creepy.
Speaking of being taken out of the kissing moment, when Reynolds and Bullock latch onto each other’s lips in the finale, Reynolds does a little hitch, unlatches, repositions microscopically, and then latches on again. Question: what percentage of the kiss’ chemistry is located in the actual physical technique of the act? If we want the couple to get together enough, does it matter how they osculate? If they osculate exceptionally well, can the act overcome our indifference to their relationship pre-kiss? Which works better onscreen, open-mouthed, close-mouthed, moving-mouthed with obvious tongue action…? And length of kiss… Do those longgg kisses give you too much time for your mind to wander? Geez, a lot of questions.
And btw, for me the best kisses of all are the ones that never quite happen. Bosoms heaving with passion, protagonists panting, panting with desire, but no, they must not, it would be wrong, for whatever reason, and… they don’t do it. I refer you to Scorsese’s Age of Innocence (1993). The Messenger (2009) also generates some heat this way between Ben Foster and Samantha Morgan.
I typed in “kissing in the movies” on YouTube. Watched some “best kissing compilations.” Turns out, who wants to watch kissing? It’s not about the kissing at all. Once the couple kisses, the drama and anticipation are done. It’s the pre-kiss chemistry that counts.
And this just in! Matrix 2, Keanu is confronted by Monica Bellucci, who demands a kiss, as Carrie-Anne Moss stands by and fumes dangerously. We get lip closeups. There is definitely a spark. Compare and contrast this with the scene at the end wherein Keanu reaches into Moss’ binary innards and zaps her digital heart, bringing her back to life, and then, as she gasps like a fish, they go into a clinch. Ok, there was a spark there too, but that heart thing was a little creepy. When I wake up from heart surgery, I never feel like kissing.
And Ninja (2009). What is it with these movies? The dude brings the dudette back to life with the secret potion, her eyes creep open, where am I, and they smooch. And then, spoilers, he takes a break to lop off the bad guy’s head. But you had to figure that, going in.