So. French Kiss! Let's go!
The movie opens with a close-up of Meg Ryan's eyes, nervously screwed shut. Her character Kate is apparently on a plane before takeoff. This is peak Meg Ryan, it's two years after Sleepless In Seattle and three years before You've Got Mail, she's cute as a goddamn button and her hair looks great.
(Also, fun fact - I've just discovered that Meg voiced Dr. Blight in Captain Planet! Remember? The sexy villainess scientist with the great jawline and the cool haircut that covered a massive scar on her face? Had an evil computer sidekick called MAL? Who, it turns out, was voiced by Tim Curry at one point! What a great cartoon.)
Anyway, Kate is mad nervous and quite clearly terrified of flying. The voice over the intercom suddenly addresses her by name, telling her to stick to the plan of thinking of a little stone cottage to calm herself down, because this ain't no plane bitches, it's actually a simulator at a place for curing people of their fear of flying. It must be a lucrative business, because their pretend plane setup is highly elaborate and Kate manages to get a refund from the company when she freaks out and goes tumbling out the cabin door in a panicked attempt to escape. It turns out that she was trying to get over her fear so she could go to Paris with her fiancee Charlie for a medical conference he's attending.
Back at home, Charlie tries to convince Kate to come with him while packing for his trip, but Kate is pretending she doesn't really want to go anyway, because she doesn't like French people (harsh enough, Kate) and while she would love to see the Eiffel Tower, she isn't actually supposed to leave the country while her application for Canadian citizenship is coming through. Oh yeah, because we're in Canada you see, and this film does its utmost to provide the audience with little background reminders of that fact, which I enjoyed immensely. Would you like to see some? I've decided that you've said yes. And I've taken the liberty of pointing them out. Shoutily.
So. That evening, Kate drags Charlie out for a drive so they can look at a lovely house up for sale. Charlie's all like, "What are we doing outside this house, which is for sale?" so we can only assume that he's never seen a film before in his life, because Kate quite obviously has something big to tell him. That thing is that Kate's been saving her money for years and she has a nest egg of 45,000 dollarybucks, so they could actually buy said house, with a little help from his parents. Charlie's reaction to this exciting news is to quietly say "my whole life is passing before my eyes and I don''t even have children yet." Charlie appears to be significantly less excited than Kate. Charlie is kind of a dick.
Cut to Kate watching telly at home, getting a phonecall from Charlie in Paris, who goes on about how "incroyable" the sauce that came with his dinner was (dick), at which point Kate slightly panics and warns him that she saw a thing on 60 Minutes, where "the sauce has to be incroyable to cover up the horsemeat!" However, they don't actually hide horsemeat in France, Meg. There are literally pictures of horses on the signs outside French butchers.
Anyway, we see Kate get a few more calls from Charlie, in which he gets increasingly brusque, talking over Kate (dick) and doesn't appear to have any interest in talking about their plans to buy the house they looked at. Finally, he rings while Kate is making dinner (in a wonderfully 90s midriff-baring blue polo neck), and he sounds kinda drunk. He launches into telling Kate about this "goddess" he's met and how sorry he is, but he's not coming back because he's in love "like in a sonnet" and he feels like he can do anything, even pee with someone standing in line behind him (which appears to be something he was previously unable to accomplish). DICK.
Kate is understandably distraught while he's telling her all this, but gets her plucky rom-com heroine game face on and gets herself on a plane. Unsurprisingly, she is having a terrible time and all the stone cottages in the world don't seem to be helping. Her thought exercises are then disrupted by the sound of a French man arguing with one of the flight attendants, a French man who just happens to be played by the utter delight that is Kevin Kline.
Also, here's one last background-Canada before they leave the country altogether, and because all that shouting ended up reminding me of Benny and his "SPACESHIP!" in The Lego Movie...
Kate ends up telling Luc all about Charlie and they discuss love and relationships and such. Luc tells Kate that he lost his virginity at the age of twelve to a prostitute called Magda. Kate was eighteen and her first time was with a jock called Jeff in her basement on Valentine's Day, with Jeopardy on in the background. Apparently Jeff got all the questions wrong, except for the sports round.
At one point, Luc gets all jumpy when Kate pats his arm and when he runs off to the airplane bathroom, we see that he's got a baby vine all wrapped up with a diamond necklace squirreled away in an inside pocket of his leather jacket. When he gets back to his seat after carefully watering the vine, Kate is asleep so he hides both the plant and the necklace in her backpack. When they arrive at the airport, as far as an unassuming Kate knows, she has nothing to declare, so she breezes past customs, while Luc is immediately stopped, due to the big shifty head on him and then approached by a cop. Who is played by Jean Reno because OBVIOUSLY. He's pretty much the go-to guy when it comes to French cops. His character is called Jean-Paul, which is great because Jean Reno is the most Jean-looking guy in the world, so why bother pretending otherwise?
Kate turns up at George V, the fancy hotel that Charlie is staying at, but the concierge is unhelpful and rude because Charlie has a do not disturb notice on his room phone, like the bastard he is. Kate tries to bribe concierge man, but he's having none of it, haughtily declaring; "It is my duty as concierge to safeguard the privacy of our guests." Pretty sure it's to order taxis and sort out show tickets for rich people, but whatever.
With no other option available, Kate waits in the lobby, hoping that Charlie will show up soon. In the meantime, she's joined by a suave dude in a bad yellow shirt (with matching pocket square) who seems to be chatting her up. However, Kate is preoccupied with her and Charlie's last conversation and ends up asking this dude if he can urinate with someone standing behind him, which leads to a great misunderstanding about sexual watersports and this dude, who is quite clearly a gigolo, kindly offering to facilitate.
However, while these wires are being crossed, Charlie descends in the glass lift accompanied by a gorgeous bird with swooshy Kelly Kapowski hair and the sight of them together causes Kate to faint. Suave Gigolo Guy nicks her luggage while she's passed out and briefly meets Luc in the revolving door on his way out. Luc arrives on the scene to revive Kate, who is most upset at all her bags being stolen. "My money, my passport, my VITAMINS!" She then goes on a slightly out-of-it rant about all men being bastards and it's just wonderful. It turns out that Luc knows the guy who took her luggage, and his name is Bob. "Of course you know him, all you bastards know each other."
Also, now that Kate is left without her luggage, it means that she's stuck with this outfit for most of the film:
|I know, Kate. I don't know why you chose that sweater-vest thing either.|
So, back to going after Kate's stuff, Luc steals a car (setting something of a precedent here that French dudes do a lot of stealing, unless they're cops called Jean) and they go to find Bob. On the way, Luc asks why Kate has come all the way to Paris for Charlie to humiliate her to her face but she's convinced that once he sees her in person it will break whatever spell this girl has put on him with her fancy French vagina.
Bob lives in a sad little apartment, they retrieve her backpack but her money, passport and for some reason most importantly, vitamins, are all gone. Luc ransacks the place looking for his baby vine and finds it on the windowsill, so he grabs it and whispers to it like it's his tiny leafy girlfriend.
Kate realises that Luc was only helping her so he could get his vine back, so they get into yet another row, this time over him using her as an unwitting mule. He explains that he needs the plant so he can mix it with French vines and start his own unique vineyard, but Kate doesn't care and just wants rid of him at this stage. They separate and Luc discovers that the necklace is missing, so he goes back to Bob and holds him up by the neck until he says it must still be in Kate's bag.
Kate makes her way to the American embassy and sleeps outside the gates, waiting for it to open. In the morning, looking remarkably fresh for someone who slept outside on the footpath, she gets to a counter and ends up being told that the embassy won't help her because she needs her Canadian citizenship stuff for them to give her a US passport. For some reason, the American counter lady seems to take it personally when Kate explains that she's applying for Canadian citizenship. Relax, counter lady. Kate then has to trundle off to the Canadian embassy and explain that there was an emergency, which was why she had to leave the country. Canadian embassy guy is nice and polite, but it turns out that Kate was arrested as a college student when she was caught with a joint, and because she was convicted her visa is denied. Womp womp. Poor Kate.
Also, while she's been forlornly wandering around Paris, Kate has been unknowingly playing a game of hide and seek with the Eiffel Tower, which is being lousy and hiding on her at every opportunity.
Back at the fancy George V hotel, Bob gets picked up in the lobby by Jean Reno before he can score some rich-lady sex. Kate also arrives back at the hotel to find that Charlie has already left, so she dings the concierge's bell until he tells her where Charlie is staying in Nice. Bob tells Jean Reno to ask Luc about a stolen necklace, so he follows Luc to the train station, where Kate is now getting a ticket to Nice. Luc catches up with her and says he's there to make it up to her and help, and after a crafty little chase sequence involving train carriages and hiding from Jean in luggage carts, he gets on the train with Kate. And now, as she's leaving Paris, she finally gets to see the Eiffel Tower from the train window, a great, clear view of the whole thing so it can't run off and hide on her again. Hooray!
Kate tells Luc how she met Charlie at a party in Toronto (CANADA, REMEMBER?)
"It wasn't like a thunderclap or lightning bolt, it was more like a..."
Luc: "Light drizzle?"
Luc tries to talk her out of this whole plan to win Charlie back and tells her that she'll forget about him in time and be able to begin again. It's quite a sweet moment from Luc and looks like he's really starting to care about how this turns out for Kate. Later on, Kate falls asleep and Luc tries to root around in her bag, which she is using as a pillow, for the diamond necklace. But Kate ends up sort of cuddling up to him in her sleepy state and sleep-shifts him. Luc sits back in his seat defeated for now but also kinda dazed, because it looked like a very, VERY good kiss.
The next morning, Luc finds Kate in the dining car, positively horsing her way through a plate filled with amazing French cheese. She tells him how energised she feels and that it's partly down to a dream she had that was "delicious" (SLEEP-SHIFT) and talks about how great cheese is. Which I can entirely get on board with. I mean, look at the breakfast she's having, for god's sake. I'm so jealous.
Kate enthusiastically remarks on how beautiful the passing French countryside is and Luc is all "pssh" and unimpressed because he was born there. "Here? But this is so charming!" Suddenly Kate feels sick from all the cheese because it turns out she's lactose intolerant (what the hell, dude? Don't eat ALL THE CHEESE!). They have to get out at a little countryside station as the rocking motion of the train wasn't helping matters, and we see Kate emerging from the bathroom after having a massive poo I guess, or whatever it is that happens to lactose intolerant people. The next train isn't for another two hours, so they wander off to a plaza, where Kate does a pretty solid impression of Luc, which mostly revolves around his wonderful catchphrase, "my ass is twitching".
A random dude then drives into the plaza, parks right up in front of them and launches into a fight with Luc. They do some manly tussling and Luc gets the upper hand, punching the guy out (there's even a smattering of light applause! French people appreciate a swift, efficient row). Luc then reveals to a bewildered Kate that this guy is in fact his brother and they end up going to the family vineyard. It turns out that Luc lost his half of the family business in a drunken poker game with his brother and then slept with the brother's wife, hence the punchy greeting.
Luc says that his family hates him, but is immediately proven to be a big liar, as we cut to his dad being clearly delighted to see him, happiness etched all over his old French face. They all have an outdoor lunch together (there's a whole load of people there, so I suppose everyone just lives there together like a big vineyardy commune) at a big long table in the sunshine and it looks like an ad for olive oil.
Luc's mother is watching Kate being cute and charming across the table and tells her wayward son that she's impressed. Luc says they're just friends, but they're getting along so well and their particular brand of chemistry is hard to ignore, so Maman is not fooled. Afterwards, Luc has another go of looking through Kate's bag while she's occupied elsewhere, but there's still no sign of the necklace.
Kate asks to see Luc's room and he ends up showing her a project he made while he was in school. It's a wooden box filled with little containers of herbs and was about demonstrating how smelling lavender and rosemary and whatnot helps to discern the flavours in wine (because OF COURSE French schoolkids do projects about tasting wine. After losing their virginites to the local working girls, I guess), which he then gets Kate to do and she's suitably impressed. She's seeing a new, softer, non-stealy side to Luc and kisses him on the cheek as they leave the room. He then shows her an abandoned vineyard that he was planning on buying one day, but now his plan for money to fund it has fallen apart (i.e. the necklace). He'd do anything for his vineyard dream, "even beg", like Kate has said that she'd do for Charlie so they begin to see that they're not that different. As such, Luc promises to help Kate get Charlie back. For real this time, as now that he's lost the necklace, there's no ulterior motive involved.
Back at the train station, Kate asks what Luc's plan was to get the money for the land. He explains that he had something to sell but lost it, Kate asks what the thing could possibly be and asks whether it was something "LIKE ZISSS?", revealing that she's wearing the diamond necklace under her shirt. Tricksy Kate! She knew the score all along!
They get to Nice and Luc advises Kate how she should play it when she finally sees Charlie. The main point is not to make a big scene. However, as they're checking into the hotel, Kate spots Charlie with Juliette and her family having lunch together and tries to spy on them. But in the grand tradition of clumsy, beautiful rom-com heroines, Kate ends up noisily falling arse-first into a fully-laden dessert cart, hitting the floor all covered in cake and quickly crawling away. Charlie thinks he sees her and goes to investigate but she manages to lose him, despite the fact that she's surely left a trail of whipped cream behind her.
In the hotel room, after Kate has washed all the dessert carnage off herself, Luc urges her to make Charlie feel like he can't have her, but who are we really talking about here, Luc? HMM? The next morning (in some new clothes! Hooray!), Kate casually pops over to Charlie and Juliette on the beach and plays the breezy ex to utter perfection, acting completely unfazed by a frosty Juliette and her pouty, 90s supermodel beauty.
Charlie is caught completely off guard and Kate tells him to chill, that she's fine and not there to fight with him. She explains that she had initially intended to try to win him back, but then met Luc in Paris, who turns up playing the cool new French dude and Charlie is completely at a loss as to what the hell is going on.
Afterwards, Kate is buzzing as phase one of the plan has gone so well and she's arranged to meet Charlie later that evening for dinner to do breakup admin. But then the intrepid Jean Reno shows up like a big buzzkill and gets Kate on her own so he can explain that the necklace is stolen. However, due to him and Luc being star-crossed buddies and all, he says that the necklace can be returned to him and Luc won't be arrested because he owes him one.
Luc's plan is to sell the necklace in Cartier the following day, so Kate sees an opportunity to get him out of trouble and offers to do it. Luc figures it's a better plan, as Kate has such an innocent-looking head on her, so agrees to let her take care of it. That night, before meeting Charlie, Kate gets herself all dolled up and her entrance is essentially a classic movie makeover, as up until this point, she's been rearranging the same outfit, being violently sick on a train and getting covered in soufflé. She looks gorgeous. Luc gives her the necklace to wear for the night and they dance in the hotel room so she can practice her relaxed, give-a-fuck routine. Kate wonders aloud when she should stop pretending that she's not still in love with Charlie, Luc says he's going to bang Juliette to keep her out of the way for the evening, Kate shushes him and they have a lovely quiet moment while dancing and potentially realising that they'd actually prefer to just hang out together for the evening instead.
Kate goes for dinner with Charlie and runs through a list of who should keep what. Charlie is still thrown by Kate's new carefree attitude and asks her if she hates him. Charlie feels guilty about being so terrible to her and asks her for one last dance. Cut to Juliette and Luc drinking at the hotel bar and Juliette is most unimpressed that Charlie has ditched her for the night to go for dinner with his ex.
Charlie remarks on how different Kate is and laments the fact that he wasn't the one to make her as happy as she seems now.
Suddenly, it's blue-lit sexytime with Juliette and Luc, but mid-tumble he calls her Kate by accident, essentially cockblocking himself. Kate and Charlie are doing the same (also blue-lit) but Kate tells him to stop when she realises that he just wants what he can't have. She gives out to him for already dumping his new fiancée for her and he's all "I'm sorry, I was afraid of getting married". But not to Juliette, as Kate points out and she finally realises that he's a massive douchebag and she doesn't actually want him back anymore.
The next morning, she tells Luc that Charlie wants to come back to Canada with her and he lets on that he hooked up with Juliette. They go to Cartier, Kate goes in but is actually meeting Jean Reno in there and hands over the necklace in exchange for a cheque which is actually her nest egg money. Not the nest egg! The necklace is worth over €100,000 so Luc isn't too impressed at first when she comes out with a €40,000 cheque. He eventually admits that it actually is enough to get started with his vineyard and thanks her. They have bittersweet moment on the seafront as Kate says she has to go and that Charlie is waiting. (LIES!)
Luc walks sadly along the pier when Kate leaves and I just have to point out this couple that ambles past him:
I love that this lady is just awkwardly holding a baguette with a little serviette around it, like it's not even in one of those paper baguette bags. Where are you going, baguette lady? And what kind of shoddy boulangerie just hands you a baguette with nothing wrapped around it? What are we, peasants? This is NICE for fuck's sake! It's like the director panicked and went "Quick! Take this baguette and walk by in the foreground, so no one forgets we're in France!" It's the new "CANADA!"
However, Luc then spots Charlie (in a hilariously terrible shirt) arguing with Juliette and then making up, suddenly realising that Kate is NOT in fact going back to Canada with him. Then Jean Reno appears, like a benevolent matchmaking French genie. Luc gestures to Charlie and Juliette in the distance and says "that's not love". Jean Reno tells Luc that he knows a love story but maybe Luc can help with the ending. The screen fades away as he begins to tell Luc what Kate has done for him, to keep him out of trouble.
Cut to Kate on the plane with her eyes closed, and GASP! There's lovely Luc on the seat beside her to tell her she shouldn't be flying anywhere. Woohoo for pre-9/11 lax airport security letting people onto planes at random! Kate realises that she wants to stay with Luc and they have a lovely kiss where they're both actually awake this time. Then we finally jump to them shifting in the middle of a lush green vineyard, her in a floaty floral dress and - look! - her motherfuckin' STONE COTTAGE in the background! Yeah bitches!
They walk away hand in hand so they can make their awesome hybrid sex wine and Louis Armstong sings La Vie En Rose over the credits.
THE END. Yaaay!