ReelBob: 2017 Heartland Film Festival: ‘The Girl Who Invented Kissing’ ★★★
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By Bob Bloom
Writer-director Tom Sierchio does not make it easy for you to like “The Girl Who Invented Kissing” because at times the film seems to borrow plot devices seen in other independent features.
The story, set in Bloomfield, N.J., covers familiar territory: two middle-age brothers dealing with various issues who own a bar, a free-spirited unnamed young woman fresh off the bus who disrupts their lives and friend-and-family secrets and betrayals.
Despite some clichéd situations and stereotypical characters, the heart — and foundation — of the movie are built upon the performance of Dash Mihok as Victor, the older brother, and his relationship with the stranger, whom he names The Girl Who Invented Kissing, played by Suki Waterhouse.
Victor, as he admits, is different. He is a “good-natured lummox” who suffered some brain damage and hearing loss as a child after being deprived of oxygen following a car accident.
After the accident — in which his drunken father drove the family car off a bridge — Victor stayed in the water to rescue Jimmy, his younger brother.
Now, years later, Jimmy, played by Vincent Piazza (“Jersey Boys” and “Boardwalk Empire”) is the more responsible brother, running the bar while Victor often disappears for hours on end, simply walking around town.
Victor constantly carries a violin case with him, and people always ask him when he is going to perform. Of course, you know that the violin will eventually come out at some dramatic point in the film.
Mihok endows Victor with quiet and gentle qualities, as well as deeply hidden intelligence and intuition that belie his supposedly diminished mental capacities.
Waterhouse’s Girl is more a symbol than a full-blown personality. She smokes pot and uses cocaine, while scrounging meals and shelter off others.
But her kindness and attention to Victor are genuine. She neither condescends nor takes advantage of him.
The movie features a few subplots that smartly do not wind up where you suspect, including one about Jimmy’s affair with a married woman wed to a hot-tempered police officer and Victor’s misplacement of bar receipts meant for a bank deposit.
The film becomes a bit melodramatic in its final reel, but, again, Mihok comes to the rescue during a confrontation with his brother before the final fade-out.
“The Girl Who Invented Kissing” is flawed but enjoyable, mostly because Mihok steals your heart with a shy-like smile.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
THE GIRL WHO INVENTED KISSING
3 stars out of 4
3:45 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 14, Traders Point
3:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 16, Castleton Square