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Film / French Kiss

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"Why weren't you the one, Charlie? The one who turned on the big shiny Kate-light that shines so bright?"

A 1995 romantic comedy film directed by Lawrence Kasdan, starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline.

Kate (Ryan) and Charlie (Timothy Hutton) have a perfect life planned out before them: buying a house, marriage, kids, the whole works. Kate's fear of flying keeps her in Canada while Charlie goes to Paris for a medical convention. While there Charlie is smitten by the lovely Juliette (Suzan Anbeh). He calls off the wedding with Kate and she nervously boards a plane to get him back. She ends up sitting next to the petty French thief Luc Teyssier (Kline). He hides a stolen necklace and smuggled grape vine in her bag to get it through customs. Her bag is stolen, the necklace apparently lost, and Kate and Luc head to Cannes — Luc to find the necklace and Kate to get Charlie back. Along the way, Kate and Luc begin having feelings for each other — which change the course of their lives.

Contains examples of:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: When Kate says she'll do anything to win Charlie back, Luc asks if she'd even beg. When she says yes, Luc laughs.
    Luc: (laughing) I can see it! There is the goddess standing next to Charlie, in her negligee, and you are on your knees, begging. Poor Charlie. Tough decision.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Luc is outed by a train conductor, he rushes off to call someone. One thinks it'll be the police, since Luc is a wanted criminal. No, it's worse for Luc — he calls his family, which brings a hostile Antoine to confront him.
  • Beautiful All Along: "Now who is the goddess?"
  • Becoming the Mask: Luc and Kate make a plan that she will approach Charlie and Juliette as a whole different person, someone confident and savvy and having moved on from Charlie. When she does, she plays her part down to a T. She then shares some personal wisdom from her journey note , reflecting that she truly has developed as a character. Towards the end, she truly becomes confident enough to break up with Charlie for his infidelity.
    • Luc starts out pretending he wants to help Kate, out of personal gain. But along the way, he finds himself falling in love with her.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Kate and Luc in the last shot, providing a visual Title Drop.
  • Bizarre Belching: After trying multiple kinds of cheese on a spur-of-the-moment whim, Kate is left overwhelmed with painful belching, apparently due to a really bad case of indigestion. Before long, she's also exhibiting "spasms" and sensitivity to the rocking of the train... and eventually, she remembers why she doesn't normally eat cheese: she's lactose intolerant.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and (basically) ends with Kate sitting in an airplane seat visualizing a pastoral scene to calm her fear of flying. More specifically, it begins with Kate visualizing a stone cottage to keep herself calm. In the end, that stone cottage not only becomes a reality, it also becomes her home, hers and Luc's and their family's.
  • Broken Pedestal: Towards the end, Kate realizes Charlie just isn't the ideal man to start a family with if not only was he unfaithful to her in the first place, but he can't wrap his head around the concept of settling down and planting roots — much less with her.
  • Brutal Honesty: Luc isn't terribly impressed with Kate insisting she and Charlie were inseparable.
    Kate: We had plans, OK? We had plans for a home and a family. I would remind him of that.
    Luc: He was obviously very attached to them.
  • Call-Back:
    Luc: When people say they are happy, it makes my ass twitch.
    Kate: (growling like an elderly Luc) My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch.
    • Kate insists that grumpy loners like Luc "fester and rot". When Luc thinks he's lost the diamond necklace forever, Kate sits next to the disconsolate Luc on a bench and intones, "Fester, fester, fester. Rot, rot, rot."
  • Canada, Eh?: Kate is trying to become a Canadian citizen to move in with Charlie. The Canadian Embassy rep is a stereotypical Canadian.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The one time Kate was ever arrested was for smoking pot — and she hated it. Unfortunately, not reporting this arrest to the Canadian Immigration gets her request for asylum at the embassy in France denied.
  • Cool Old Guy: Jean-Paul, played by Jean Reno.
  • Creative Sterility: Luc thinks Antoine is a mediocre vintner because he sells the wine but does not drink it.
  • Culture Clash: North America versus France.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: When Antoine confronts Luc, the latter just humors him til the former connects with a punch. Luc then downs him with a single punch.
  • Dark Reprise: Played for laughs.
    Kate: (singing to herself nervously) I hate Paris in the springtime, I hate Paris in the fall.(...)
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Near the end of the movie, Kate tells Charlie that no matter how confident and self-assured she is, all she wants is to settle down and plant some roots. Charlie guesses she means she wants to take up farming. This would fall under Comically Missing the Point if not for how this marks the moment Kate realizes even if she wanted him back, Charlie is incapable of comprehending her life goals of starting a family.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Averted until halfway through the movie: Kate repeatedly fails to get a view of the tower while in Paris, missing it by mere seconds at one point, until she finally glimpses it from the train as she leaves the city. It's never seen again in the film.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Jean-Paul is puzzled about why Kate would help a man who essentially was a stranger to her two days ago and give him essentially her life savings and expect nothing in return. She admits, "I don't know." Jean-Paul leans back and you can practically see him deciding to be a matchmaker.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Discussed. When Luc tries to put up a front that he does not care about his family (not even his mother), Kate points out that everybody loves their mothers. She even points out that "people who say they hate their mothers love their mothers."
  • Everyone Has Standards: Charlie's sister may be rude to Kate for the most part, but when she listens in on Kate's phone call with Charlie, she doesn't seem to like the direction the conversation is going: that her brother is essentially breaking off his engagement with Kate to be with another woman.
  • Face Your Fears: Kate is deathly afraid of flying (though it seems more like she's scared of the takeoff than the actual flight), but Luc manages to distract her long enough til they're in the air.
  • Food Porn: Luc reuniting with his family results in a prodigal son feast. However, the film might be considered Wine Porn.
  • Foreshadowing: When Kate shares that ultimately she wants to "settle down and plant some roots", Charlie obliviously thinks she's talking about farming. While she and Luc do achieve the metaphorical meaning of planting roots (starting a family), the movie also ends with them planting a vineyard (which is a winery farm).
  • Gilligan Cut: Luc tells Kate his family hates him and he would be unwelcome. Cue Luc's dad appearing, happy to see Luc back, and the next scene is Luc and Kate eating at the Teyssier dinner table, with dozens of family members fawning over the two.
  • Hastily Hidden MacGuffin: The thief hide his stolen necklace and contraband grape vineling in the girl's luggage, and he then has to pursue her until he recovers them.
  • Have We Met?: The train conductor at an out-of-the-way station knows Luc from somewhere, guessing different names. Luc simply mutters back (in French) "You don't know me, old man." When he finally guesses his name — "Luc Teyssier! Viola!" — and goes to call someone, Luc gives a This Is Gonna Suck sigh.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: When Charlie breaks up with Kate, he tells her Juliette makes her feel "Like I could do anything. I could rule the worid, climb the highest mountain. I could walk into a men's room and pee, even with some big guy in line behind me." Later, when gigolo Bob is hitting on Kate, she asks rhetorically, "Can you urinate with someone standing right behind you?" Bob's response... freaks her out.
    Bob: I think I could manage it. Are you going to be the someone?
    Kate: (aghast) Me? No! That's not what I meant!
    Bob: So... you would like that I arrange for someone else to stand next to me? It could be arranged! You have the face of an angel - I'm delighted to find the mind is a little devil.
  • Heart Is Where the Home Is: The narrative initially has the audience rooting for American Meg Ryan to win back her Canadian fiancé from a French seductress. In an inversion, however, as the film goes on the audience instead begins to root for her and French thief Kevin Kline to get together.
  • Hidden Depths: Juliette. Her scene with Luc reveals that she has emotions and fears. Her argument with Charlie before their makeup kiss hint that she and Charlie really are meant for each other.
  • I Owe You My Life: Jean-Paul says he owes Luc a debt greater than money because he saved his life.
    Kate: (on Luc stealing a diamond necklace) So why don't you just arrest him?
    Jean-Paul: I'm old-fashioned. I owe him a large debt, much bigger than the debt of money.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction:
    Luc: I used you, a lot. You helped me to get my vine and I left you with nothing. So now I ask myself, what can possibly do to make it up to you? (sees Jean-Paul and his deputies searching for him) And so now I am here for you. (bolts away)
    Kate: (unfazed) Typical.
  • Ironic Echo: Every time Luc instructs Kate, he says, "I want you... to... [something to make Charlie jealous each time]." At the end, when Luc tells her she should not be flying back to Canada, and says, "I want you..."
    Kate: You want me...?
    Luc: (smiles) That is all. I want you.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Charlie's sister may be brutally honest about it, but she makes a point that it's not wise of Kate to build a life around avoiding risks.
    • Luc may not be supportive of Kate's endeavors of finding Charlie and getting him back, but he's right: if Charlie lost his heart to another woman so easily, chances are his heart isn't worth getting back at all.
  • Just Friends: Luc's sister says she approves of Luc's "new girlfriend" Kate. He insists they're just friends, to which his sister challenges, "When have you ever had a woman who's just a friend?" He retorts, "Since her."
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Luc. Even when he was 12, he stole 50 francs from his brother so he could make out with a prostitute.
  • Lady in Red: The first shot of Juliette, and she is a goddess in it.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Luc's embarrassing secret. Kate has no sympathy.
    Kate: (holding a miniature Eiffel Tower) Luc. Look. Look what I found. It made me think of you. (the Eiffel Tower droops) Awww.
  • Love Epiphany: Luc has one when he realizes he says Kate's name while having sex with Juliette. Jean-Paul realizes that Kate is in love with Luc when she gives her entire life's savings to save Luc from going to jail (and to allow him to start his winery), with no intent on telling Luc what she did for him.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Luc believes this.
    (Charlie and Juliette make up and kiss)
    Jean-Paul: Ah, l'amour. C'est merveilleux. (Ah, love. It's wonderful.)
    Luc: (dismissive) C'est ne pas l'amour. (That's not love.)
  • MacGuffin: The diamond necklace drives the plot, and keeps Luc around Kate long enough for them to fall for each other.
  • Maurice Chevalier Accent: All the French characters speak this way. Luc in particular is practically doing a Maurice Chevalier impression — though he grew up in France, and while it's a thick accent, it's authentic.
  • Nice Girl: Kate. Even when faced with French Jerks, she tries to keep a sunny disposition (which is what wins Luc's family over.)
  • One True Love: Kate believes in this and thought Charlie was hers. When she asks Luc if he believes in the concept too, he dismisses it as the question of a little girl who believes in Fairy Tales. Turns out Charlie does have a one true love with Juliette — and Kate has hers with Luc.
  • Playing Hard to Get: Deconstructed as Luc details the poutiness of French women. He states they know how to say "no" when they mean "yes", and that it excites French men. Later, Kate defies the trope, saying she isn't capable of doing that:
    Kate: Happy - smile. Sad - frown. Use the corresponding face for the corresponding emotion!
  • Product Placement: For the Four Seasons George V hotel.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The theatrical, cable and VHS releases of the film had English subtitles for the French dialog. The later releases removed them.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kate gives something like this to Charlie after they get back together. She makes a point to rhetorically wonder why he didn't notice Kate's "light" until now.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Juliette is the red to Kate's blue, and they literally wear their respective color dresses at their most beautiful.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    Luc: I have no reason to lie now. Do I look like the kind...
    Kate: You look like the kind who steals liquor bottles from airplanes. The kind who offers a girl a ride, then has to steal a car in order to give it to her. Who puts a plant in a person's bag...
    Luc: OK, I get the picture.
  • Scenery Porn: The film's cinematography lovingly shows off Paris, the George V, the Teyssier vineyard and Cannes.
  • Serious Business: Wine to Luc. Granted, that's the default setting to most French, but Luc studied the science of making wine, even constructing a high school science project he shows Kate.
  • Shout-Out: Inevitable that at one point Kate will say, "Sorry, Charlie."
  • Sibling Rivalry: Luc and Antoine have a complicated relationship. Antoine is the stable, hardworking brother, while Luc is the sort of guy to lose his inheritance with one poker hand — to Antoine. Luc at some point retaliated for his own mistake by sleeping with Antoine's wife.
  • Stealth Insult: The meeting staged between Kate, Luc and Charlie is intended as one.
    Luc: (indicating Charlie) "Sweetie-pie"?
    Kate: Oui.
    Luc: (disapprovingly) Oh-lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-lo. Je comprends tout! (makes dismissive noise)
  • Supermodel Strut: When Kate has the idea of selling the necklace herself, Luc approves, saying she'd stroll in looking "just so" with her "little walk", which he describes as "like a woman, but also like a little girl." Kate denies she does this, but when she turns and walks away, everyone can see, yes, she does.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • "Lactose intolerance!"
    • When Kate sees the stewardess telling Luc that his seat is next to hers, Kate starts singing, "I hate Paris in the springtime..."
  • Toilet Humor: Of the subtle variety regarding the lactose intolerance scene: Kate talking about mucus lining her intestines, not able to sit down after "fixing" the situation in the train station restroom, and so on.
  • True Blue Femininity: Kate is called a "goddess" by Luc when she wears an expensive blue dress to seduce Charlie (along with the diamond necklace.)
  • Visual Pun: Kate raises her fist and vows, sobbing, "I will triumph!" at one point. In the background is L'Arc de Triomphe.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Jean-Paul and Luc.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Kate's fear of flying, but she forces herself onto a plane to win Charlie back. Luc is amused.
    Luc: Your every muscle in your body is tense, even the lids of your eyes. Your nostrils are... are closing up. How do you do that?!
  • Wisdom from the Gutter: Luc isn't exactly the first person you would turn to for reliable advice. On top of his shifty appearance, he's a thief and a con-artist who Really Gets Around. All in all, when Kate shares her personal fear that she'll never fall in love again if she can't win back Charlie, he comforts her. He tells her that although she misses him now, her heart will gradually heal, to the point where someday she won't give Charlie another thought.
  • Wolf Whistle: Bob makes the two-note noise when he spies the Lady in Red Juliette making out with Charlie in the glass elevator.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Jean-Paul repeatedly states his belief that Luc is much better than a petty thief.