A woman stops a man to ask directions to her hotel in a quaint French village. He offers her a ride instead. They go to dinner, and have a wonderful evening. He leans in for a goodnight kiss; she refuses. He asks for an explanation. Sure, they’re both in committed relationships, but what’s the harm? Then she proceeds to tell a story about two good friends who slept with each other purely as a favor, and how it just about ruined their lives.
Emmanuel Mouret’s Shall We Kiss? is the very definition of “breezy.” It’s a featherweight romantic comedy about a group of basically happy people with inconsequential problems, living out their mini-dramas in ritzy apartments, outdoor cafés, and art museums. Mouret plays the story-within-a-story’s hero, a recently dumped mathematics professor who’s fearful of reentering the dating scene because he’s afraid he’s too starved for physical affection to make good choices. Virginie Ledoyen plays his best friend, a married research scientist who proposes—purely from a practical perspective—that she and Mouret sleep together, just to get him out of his slump. Unexpectedly, they find they’re so compatible as lovers that no one else can satisfy them anymore.
Shall We Kiss? is fanciful to a fault, and ambles unhurriedly to a predictable conclusion, but Mouret crafts a couple of setpieces that are as poignant as they are dryly comic. In one, his character and Ledoyen’s proceed through a session of lovemaking as respectful colleagues, constantly checking on each other’s pleasure level, and responding with lines like, “I’m allowing myself to enjoy it since you said you’d like that.” (Mouret wears his socks throughout, and Ledoyen her pearls, and as they roll around in a big bed with a too-small bedspread, they look like little kids.) In the other, Mouret and Ledoyen conspire to get their current romantic partners to sleep with each other, so they can proceed with their own affair without guilt, but the overly complicated story hits a few farcical snags. The pleasures of these scenes are genuine but minor, much like the movie as a whole. Between the pervasive old-world charm and the soundtrack’s light classical music, Shall We Kiss? feels as pleasant and pointless as an afternoon of antiquing.