By Jeff Kubik
Alright kids, here’s irony for you. Imagine a film exploring the concept of sexual role playing, characters struggling with roles imposed by society and the uneasy balance strike as they refuse and redefine them. Now imagine this same film is so deeply mired in cliche, its characters so one-dimensional, that it defies the most formulaic Hollywood romantic comedy. It’s a bit of a mind fuck, no?
Mango Kiss a romantic comedy, so my synopsis will be brief. Lou (Michelle Wolff) and Sassafras (Daniele Ferraro) were best friends, but since Sassafras has come out of the closet, Lou is in love with her. Together, they move to San Francisco, find employment in a grocery store and accommodation in an impossibly large apartment. Cue the musical montage of flirtations set to the Cranberries’ “Dream.”
Amid a gay community where sexual choices are as varied as the roles available to play, Lou finally finds the courage to ask Sassafras to be her lover. But is a non-monogamous relationship really what she wants? Add a flamboyantly gay best friend, the inevitable conflict resulting from an open-ended relationship, and stir.
To say the film’s cast and script offer dialogue so wooden it borders on flammable would be a gross understatement. Case in point: Kaz, the aforementioned gay best friend. Played by Joe Mellis–casting director of Mango Kiss in what can’t be a good sign–this afterthought of a character is played with all the appeal of a kindergarten pageant’s shrub. Like nearly every other peripheral character in this film, Kaz is introduced simply to exit, filling the background in the first feature-length film by writer/director Sascha Rice. A tightly knit group of role-playing lesbians seem to have been written in to appear once in a cafe and once at Sassafras’ catastrophic birthday party, disappearing mysteriously in between and afterward.
Mango Kiss is further bogged down by leadenly elevated dialogue and knee-jerk comedic cliche.
“Dresses are a form of bondage in a male-dominated society,” says a flippant Sassafras. Kaz shoots back with a “It’s in your size.”
Ultimately, Mango Kiss is a romantic comedy cliche coupled with independent film pretension. Its sole flair of originality, the inclusion of non-monogamous relationships and the implications of role-playing, is ultimately abandoned in lieu of formulaic romantic conflict, leaving little behind but a series of skull-splitting editing tricks and wooden performances.