Paul at Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies hosted The Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon to celebrate the birthday of Meg Ryan, and this is my belated post containing some thoughts on “Prelude to a Kiss” (1992). I love so many Meg Ryan films, including her “feel-good” romantic comedies “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) and “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993), and her more “serious” movies, such as “When a Man Loves a Woman” (1994) and “In The Cut” (2003).
Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
“…Must have been my kiss(es), all I can think, drives men wild…” (Rita/Julius).
The movie is based on the 1988 play of the same name by Craig Lucas, and, although most plays-to-films do not agree with me, for example, see “Marjorie Prime“ (2017) and “Carnage” (2011), this movie seems to work, maybe because it does not have this feeling of being contained in one location. The story may appear absurd, but it is actually quite entertaining and amusing. Rita (Ryan) and Peter (Baldwin) meet at a party and instantly establish a connection. After some lovely courting (which takes the movie some 40 minutes to get right), the couple move on with their wedding, and, from then on, its a roller-coaster of delights and sorrows. During the wedding, Rita somehow manages to swap her body with that of an old grumpy man through a kiss, and Peter, noticing that something is wrong with his new wife, sets on the course to put things right. And, Rita really does not seem like the old Rita to her husband at all. If before she could not get enough sleep, now she sleeps like a baby, and, if before she drank alcohol (she worked as a barmaid), now she does not even want to try a cocktail in Jamaica.
It is all very nonsensical, but, strangely, the power of the film is in its indeterminacy and bizarreness. It raises some interesting questions on the importance of letting go and moving on, on the importance of cherishing current moments and not being afraid to look at future. In spirit, it may be comparable now to “City of Angels” (1998) or “Just Like Heaven” (2005), and, in plot, it is somewhere between “Ghost” (1990) and “13 Going on 30” (2004). There are many funny moments in the film, for example, when Peter meets Rita’s hard-to-forget parents or when Rita finds herself for the first time in the body of an old man, and the film does get better as it progresses.
So, what happens when you pair the beautiful star of romantic comedies Meg Ryan (“When Harry Met Sally” (1989) with handsome, slightly roguish, Alec Baldwin? An unbelievably good-looking couple with a surprisingly nice chemistry on set. Ryan should feel at ease on the set of “Prelude to a Kiss”, and, truth be told, there are so many “guilty-pleasure” films made in the late 1980s and 90s with Alec Baldwin that simply “worked”, such as Burton’s “Beetlejuice” (1988), Armitage’s “Miami Blues” (1990) and even Becker’s “Malice” (1993). Both of the stars work their magic in “Prelude to a Kiss” too, and this is the story of opposites attract. Meg Ryan plays a fun, eccentric girl-next-door who cannot sleep and who is afraid to settle because she feels it is wrong to raise children in such an unjust world, while Alec Baldwin plays a serious and philosophical type, who is taken by the beauty and viewpoints of Meg’s character. Both actors are convincing, and the point is that Peter should find fun and enjoyment in his life through Rita, and Rita should find her stability and security in Peter. The story knows that a “third element” should be introduced to help the couple finally appreciate what they have – and then comes the Old Man/Julius character (Syd Walker). The supporting cast is recognisable and equally compelling. There is Stanley Tucci (“The Children Act” (2018)), playing always-in-the-way Tylor, Rita’s friend and Peter’s co-worker, Kathy Bates (“Revolutionary Road” (2008)), rendering the role of Leah Blier, and Ned Beatty (“Toy Story 3” (2010)), playing Rita’s father – Dr Boyle.
“Prelude to a Kiss” may not be the best movie out there and it lacks substance in its plot, but the charm of its stars and the fun, fantastical elements ensure that the film is appealing and sweet, and, despite some uncomfortable doses of tackiness and sentimentality, – enjoyable; especially recommended for the fans of either Ryan or Baldwin.