Alright, you got me, Charles Davis. As "Tender Kisses" began, I got that weird feeling in the first five minutes that I was actually going to be in store for something that would have been well outside of my normal personal taste, whatever that might be for a guy that would watch just about anything. Then, I'd say somewhere no later than about six minutes into this movie, writer/director Charles Davis flipped the switch and sent "Tender Kisses" into completely uncharted terrain. While it's absolutely fair to say that he does this by taking this film into what we old movie-store folks would have readily stocked in the cult section, which is a genre that pretty much always comes with some good stuff & bad, rest assured you can still bank on things being different. No matter what the end results might be in terms of passing or failing in anything I'm watching, establishing a fully decisive level of uniqueness is always a great place to start.
For example, have you ever watched a film where there was a husband & wife sitting peacefully in their living room discussing daily events, and then suddenly, a random jogger jogs his way right in front of the television set, only to ask "Hey mister – you filming a movie?" No? That's what I'm tellin' you – it was a first for me too. "Tender Kisses" would go on to unleash an entire series of things I'd never seen before. It seemed like only seconds later, the good Dr. Barto Helius was in the midst of foiling a robbery that was occurring merely feet away from him, in his OWN HOME, and receiving a standing ovation for his heroism. Do you see what I'm saying y'all? There's not a damn thing that's normal about "Tender Kisses." Admittedly, doing things differently carries a lot of weight when it comes to what I usually enjoy watching, and yet I've also wrestled with most films that would be described as cult-ish genre-wise. It's a style of film that comes along with some fairly reliable standards, like everything being completely over the top in terms of plotlines - and acting that's quite often equally exaggerated to match. I think it's fair to say that "Tender Kisses" stays true to the format in that regard & makes absolutely no apologies for being as strange as it is. Which is a great thing; if you're gonna get weird with it, you should own every moment.
Is it funny? Sure! At times, there's some incredibly smart humor to be found in this film, though in contrast, as a result of everything being so overblown from sight to sound, it purposely feels odd, if not outright forced. Is it shocking? Sure! Probably more often than you'd assume when it comes right down to it. Whether it's due to the main storyline, or from the odd way things are shot, or the strange things that are added into each setting and scene we see, chances are there is something that'll end up raising your eyebrows to the rafters for one reason or another as you watch "Tender Kisses." Like, how about the random Bunny Man that also seems to come out of thin air to help…um…end a conversation – are you starting to understand the level of randomness and the bizarre way this movie seems to work?
From his delusions to the confusion in general, Barto (played by Charles Davis) is the kind of character that you know you can't trust. Like an unreliable narrator of sorts, it is crystal clear that he has no grip on what reality really is. In fact, we end up with the suspicion that nothing we're watching is real at all - like what we're witnessing is a full-blown psychotic episode that seemingly has no end, and one that our main "guide" to get through this strange adventure seems to have no idea he's participating in! "Whether I'm here or not doesn't even matter anymore" is one of the most insightfully poignant lines in this whole film – Barto's nightmare is going to continue, whether he's real or he's not. The entire series of random characters, events, and scenes keep coming at you non-stop. "Tender Kisses" eventually morphs its way into what resembles some sort of murder mystery, and I promise it'll be the weirdest one you see.
It does get seriously meta, but that's kind of how things are destined to go when you have to partner up with yourself in order to solve a crime - and the only chance you've got to survive is to team up with your own delusions. For as weird as every single scene of "Tender Kisses" is, and how undeniably bizarre this would be for the actors within it, the confidence in the material is genuinely profound. Nobody breaks, nobody lets you in on just how odd this whole story is, and you really can't help but be somewhat amazed by this as you watch everything unfold. There's not a doubt in my mind that "Tender Kisses" will only appeal to a very small fraction of a world's worth of potential watchers, but by that same logic, and as twisted as it may be, I'm not telling Charles Davis anything he doesn't already know, 100%. You don't go making a film like "Tender Kisses" without knowing how precisely strange you are, and it is. To make things even odder, the cleverness in the way that this film wraps up its storyline is freakishly smart for how far this film chose to go proudly onto the fringe. It's delusional but delightfully so.
And so here we are, with me telling you that "Tender Kisses" ain't gonna be nearly what you'd expect - and that it ended up being a whole lot better than you'll assume it's going to be. I'm not claiming you'll know which way is up by the time you're finished watching - or that you won't be wondering what is or isn't real yourself by the end, but I think I can guarantee you'll have a whole lot more fun watching "Tender Kisses" and trying to figure this out than you'd ever think you would after having experienced it myself. I'm going with three stars out of five. I'll readily admit I don't have a whole lot of advice for what could be improved here because I think a movie like this accomplishes what it intends to, and the over-the-top nature of it all is completely on purpose. Maybe a bit lengthy, and I'd imagine it'll be a bit tough to follow for the majority of folks, especially when you consider that "Tender Kisses" has about eighteen endings by the time it's all over. Still, if you're game to go down the rabbit hole, this film will happily take ya for the trip and never compromise on the degree of strangeness it wants to present.