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  Matthias & Maxime The Kiss Off
Year: 2019
Director: Xavier Dolan
Stars: Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas, Xavier Dolan, Harris Dickinson, Anne Dorval, Marilyn Castonguay, Pier-Luc Funk, Antoine Pilon, Alexandre Bourgeois, Camille Felton, Catherine Brunet, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Louise Bombardier, Samuel Gauthier, Monique Spaziani
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It seemed like just another get-together for this group of friends around Montreal, they were going to hang out in this lakeside property, drink, smoke, shoot the breeze, generally enjoy each other's company. But there was a joker in the pack, and she was a sister of one of the all-male group, Erika (Camille Felton), a Generation Z film student whose two main cast members for her thesis movie had gone and left her in the lurch, so she needed someone to replace them. She asked around, and eventually Maxime (Xavier Dolan) agreed to help her out, and Matthias (Gabriel D'Almeida) was persuaded, though reluctant. There was just one thing: for the purposes of their roles, they had to share a kiss on camera, and that would have big repercussions...

Matthias & Maxime was considered writer/director/star Xavier Dolan's coming of age movie, but not for his characters, for himself. He had exploded onto the indie scene with a series of nervy, exuberant, at times lacerating dramas around ten years previously, a true enfant terrible given his tender years, but he wasn't a baby anymore by the point he made this. Expectations were that his millennial characters here would exhibit far more maturity, not so much getting out the pipe and slippers to settle down in their favourite armchairs, but behave a little more responsibly, come to terms with their youth now it was slipping over the horizon, and prove that Dolan was no one-trick pony, but could adapt to the march of time with grace and perception.

Some chance of that, judging by the way his camera continually roved around claustrophobic and cluttered locations, getting right in close to his cast's faces as they behaved, frankly, pretty obnoxiously in lieu of vital and vibrant personalities. If you did not respond to Dolan's filmography before, you were not about to start now with this piece, and the sense that he was playing to the gallery was difficult to shift. The fact that this was essentially applying the structure of a romantic comedy but neglecting to make it funny would have his admirers content with what Erika announces from the outset is a tale of gender fluidity, that position you don't need to stick with one sexual preference dependent on what's between your legs, but if that was the intention, it was not especially convincing in this telling, with gay Max and straight Matthias superficially finding common ground. They spent so much time away from one another that you just didn't buy any putative romance.

Simply kissing someone of the same gender as yourself will not suddenly turn you gay, so we are offered strong hints that these two pals had undiscussed emotions for one another, though given that despite the outcome, Matthias never comes across as having any kind of chemistry with Max, sexually or romantically, this was a stretch. This idea of repression of true preferences was important at the time Dolan was scripting - all it supposedly took was a little bit of lovin' contact with a man for another man to want to give into them in that way (and with women, too), though while not everyone's reaction to that would be violently opposed, thank goodness, neither did it mean inside every straight was an opposite gender struggling to get out - look how A Different Story was lambasted in the nineteen-seventies for suggesting that very thing about a male/female gay couple. Obviously, change is possible in any personality, but this film tended to appear as if Dolan had been moving in the same circle of friends too long, just as his aggressively chummy bros here did; his caricatured female characters would confirm that suspicion. He was a talented man, but he was digging himself into a hole with affected, stalled efforts such as this.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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