Kettle of Fish (2006) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for brief sexuality and language
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Matthew Modine, Gina Gershon, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Christy Scott Cashman, Kevin J. O'Connor, Fisher Stevens, Ewa da Cruz, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Lois Chiles, Gloria Reuben
Director: Claudia Myers
Screenplay: Claudia Myers
Review published April 1, 2007
Kettle of Fish was writer-director Claudia Myers' first screenplay she wrote, the first draft coming while still a graduate student. She claims that she wanted to craft a story different than your typical romantic comedy, where a guy would not end up with the girl that with whom he experienced love at first sight, but rather, the girl that has been under his nose that he's been ignoring all along. Trouble is, what she is describing is your typical romantic comedy; if the plot involves a man who has a cute but repressed woman that he ignores romantically because he is fixated on the vivacious, alluring hot girl, you can take it to the bank that he'll end up with the former every single time.
Matthew Modine (Transporter 2, Le Divorce) is the guy in this case, playing a 40-something lifelong bachelor named Mel. Mel is at a crossroads in his life, not knowing what he wants to do as a career, and at this late stage of the game, he is finally getting that itch to settle down, although the girls he has been going out with aren't really suitable for more than one night stands. When he moves in with the cute Swedish Inga (Da Cruz, "As the World Turns") , he sublets his apartment to a visiting British scientist named Ginger (Gershon, Man About Town), only to end up moving in with her when Inga tosses him out. They don't have much in common, but eventually become friends once she finds a new place, and he becomes enamored of Diana (Cashman, The Strangler's Wife), a newly-married woman with a rich husband (Stevens, Undisputed) who is more fixated on his business than he is with his new bride. Mel does everything he can to get close to Diana, including taking a job as the elevator man in her apartment building, but with her being taken, the prospects seem dim -- and yet, he can't stop himself. Meanwhile, Ginger is interested in his affairs, as it helps her study mating patterns akin to those she is studying in male frogs.
As you can tell from the above plot description, Kettle of Fish is slightly offbeat, at least from outward appearances, but once you remove the quirkiness of the characters and their lifestyles,this is obvious formula stuff underneath. The only thing that isn't typical are the ages of the main characters in this romantic comedy, with both Modine and Gershon in their mid-40s. Modine is starting to look a little too long in the tooth to play aimless playboy bachelor roles anymore; it must be said that Gershon doesn't look anywhere near her age, so she fares much better, even though it's difficult to fathom someone so attractive and intelligent having to settle for the dregs of masculinity she is afforded in the film: financially unstable, relationship-phobe Mel and a creepy, mama's boy scientist colleague named Harry (O'Connor, Van Helsing).
Although the actors are competent, it's the casting that is iffy. Of course, only in films like this can a guy as haggard as Mel, and one who lives paycheck to paycheck, be able to bag damn near every available babe in New York -- heck, even his female goldfish is drawn to him. It's just a bit too out of the norm to buy into, as we must suspend an inordinate amount of disbelief that a grown man with obvious maturity issues would be the one every hot woman wants to possess. Meanwhile, Ginger's character proves just as phony, with Gershon adopting a faux-Brit accent (presumably to make her stereotypically reserved?). She performs well in the role, but with Gina's constant looks of smoldering sensuality, every new hairstyle and outfit belies her supposedly nerdy, repressed nature.
Kettle of Fish, despite decent performances and good jazzy scoring, is reserved strictly for couples looking for a modestly diverting date movie, and probably no one else. If you're looking for something you've never seen before, keep looking, as this is not a different kettle of fish than any number of similar releases that come out straight to video (or basic cable) on a semi-monthly basis.
©2007 Vince Leo