I Don’t Buy Kisses Anymore

kisses_001starring Jason Alexander, Nia Peeples, and Michele Scarabelli as Connie Klinger

When he was a boy, Bernie Fishbine worked in his father’s shoe-shop. He spent most of his time eating small shaped pieces of chocolate candy known as “kisses”. When his father died, Bernie took over the business but his craving for “kisses” continued unabated.

Now Bernie (Jason Alexander) is “thirtyish” and is a little overweight. As such his self-confidence is non-existent. He blames his weight on not having a girlfriend and blames not having a girlfriend on his weight. But, one day, things began to change…

Tress Garabaldi (Nia Peeples) is working her way through a tough thesis at the same time as entertaining at her father’s restaurant. One night she visits the same shop that Bernie buys his “kisses” from. Fate has it that they then go on to share the same bus – Bernie, on his way home, Tress on her way to the restaurant… Few words pass between them but Bernie is clearly entranced.

The following day, Tress is working at her day job and displays despair when her friend Connie Klinger tells her of her impending engagement to Larry (“Luscious Larry”) and that Tress’ boyfriend was heard to be planning similar events. Tress explains that she has to finish her master’s degree before she can start to think of her own life. She doesn’t even have a subject for her thesis yet…

kisses_002One evening, Bernie gets up the courage to visit the restaurant and watches Tress playing the piano and singing. He becomes further enraptured in the beautiful woman. As the evening moves on, Tress and Bernie talk. The subject of Bernie’s weight comes up and Tress suggests Bernie should visit her health spa. Bernie begins an all-out weight-loss program.

“The guy is an addict, Tress. They’re all alike. The minute they get ticked-off about something – WHAM! Alkies fall off the wagon; Smokers light up; and Fatso’s pig out!”

At the gym, Connie suggests an ideal subject for Tress’ thesis – Bernie. Tress considers how much stress it would take for Bernie to “pig out”. As Tress begins her paper, Bernie mistakes her interest in him as something more romantic. What began as infatuation for Bernie has turned into something much deeper and so Bernie shows signs of cracking when he discovers that Tress already has a boyfriend.

As time moves on, Tress’ interest in Bernie also shows signs of becoming something more. As Connie notes (when a remarkable pair of cuddly slippers are sent to Tress)…

“Correct me if I’m wrong… But is the do-er becoming the do-ee..??”

However, when Bernie is invited to Tress’ parent’s house, he learns that Tress lied to him about a past weight problem of her own. This, combined later with discovering Tress’ thesis papers, is enough for Bernie to snap. He decides, rather than to return to overeating, that he will take some time out of his life and opts for a two-week vacation in the sun.

While he’s away, Tress discovers something, too. She has fallen in love with Bernie – a fact noted by her broken heart.

On his return, Bernie refuses to even speak with Tress – he has not forgiven her. Due to Bernie’s manner, his father recognises that Bernie is still in love with Tress and so he takes matters into his own hands. At first, Bernie continues to ignore Tress’ compassioned plea… but Bernie can’t stay mad any longer.


kisses_004I Don’t Buy Kisses Anymore is a fairytale told in modern terms. You learn this as soon as you discover what the “kisses” in the title are. As such, the story holds no surprises – you know Bernie and Tress will live happily ever after and that, at some stage, Bernie will feel good enough about himself to say “I don’t buy kisses anymore”.

However, this film isn’t about surprises. It’s about sitting down, grabbing yourself a box of tissues (for the tears that will threaten to come from even the stoniest of hearts), and watching a romantic and sweet little film. Anyone who’s been in a similar situation to Bernie’s will associate themselves with him immediately (although, how Bernie got up the courage to speak to Tress on the bus in the first place might remain more of a mystery).

This is a film that concentrates more on characters than endings and, as such, it works spectacularly. All of the characters are so well-written that the story practically takes care of itself. This gives the film an elevated quality that is much lacking in films of recent years of the type that do nothing more than throw high-budgets at the sets and special effects at the viewer in the vain hope of disguising a lousy story.

kisses_079Michele plays the supporting character of Connie. What is most unusual for a supporting character in a film that concentrates solely around the two leads is that Connie provides the main “flow” of the storyline. This, in itself, plays out in its own secondary story which, given more focus, could have threatened the main story in terms of interest and strength. Michele’s first scene involves a little dialogue concerning Connie’s engagement to Larry. This relationship is spoken of further throughout the scenes at the gym and works as a steady foil to the lack of relationship between Tress and Bernie. This is particularly heightened later when, as it becomes more obvious of Tress and Bernie’s feelings for each other, Connie arrives on Tress’ doorstep proclaiming that she’s seen Larry (now nicknamed “Sleazy Larry”) making out with the “high-fashioned bimbo” who lives in her apartment building and so their relationship ends at the same time Bernie’s begins.

Michele is a marvel to watch here. She puts so much energy and vigour into each scene that the other characters seem almost “slow” by comparison. Also, if you can, check out the expression on Michele’s face during the early aerobics scenes and see if you can tell what she’s thinking! Michele deserves a much meatier role than this but, even so, this film is just such a joy to watch. A very clever film, disguising itself as a simple romantic story. Turn on all the emotions! And cheer for Bernie and Tress at the end…