17 October 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

This is a warped whodunit with a serial killer whose method of dispatching victims is so nasty it shows hilariously how far one has to go to keep up with big-budget Hollywood thrillers.

“Kiss & Tell” is a winning independent film from writer-director Jordan Alan (“Terminal Bliss”, “Love & Happiness”) that features a large and entertaining cast, including four Arquette family members (but not Rosanna or Patricia).

A candidate for eventual cult status, the Phaedra Cinema release should generate moderate interest in limited engagements before heading to video. Hip and breezily unconcerned with making sense, the improvisational “Kiss & Tell” feels like a story written by a roomful of people, with everyone taking turns adding a new scene and then passing it on.

“Kiss & Tell” stars Justine Bateman, Heather Graham and Peter Greene, and boasts bit players Traci Lind, Lukas Haas, Assumpta Serna, Alexandra Paul, Rose McGowan, Teresa Hill, Jill Hennessey, Roxana Zal, Mickey Cottrell, Nina Siemaszko and co-producer Pamela Gidley as the dreaded Betty “Beta” Carotene. Throw in Alexis, Richmond, David and father Lewis Arquette, and you have one strange brew.

Imagine Gregg Araki making “L.A. Confidential” and you can get a sense of the atmosphere and general punchiness of “Kiss & Tell,” which pits lesbians against detectives against shifty suspects against wigged-out murderers in a willy-nilly noir fable that simultaneously makes use of and mocks many Los Angeles landmarks.

The ratio of good gags to so-so jokes is about 3-to-1 in this feast of up-and-coming stars, which achieves its best results with epiphanous events in many of the comic vignettes, moments when the characters come alive and their conflicts are intriguing.

But overall the wacky plot couldn’t be more lurid and loaded with sin-city cliches that have been twisted into amusing satirical elements. Here’s a sampling: an armless coroner eating a restaurant meal, a group therapy session attended exclusively by murderers, a hit man from New York named Lollypop Man and a psychopath using poisoned carrots to leave a trail of corpses.

Shocks and twists are frequent, but what’s surprising is how well Alan and crew keep control of the project when it easily could have become too incoherent and unfunny. There are even a few scenes that are downright spooky, not an easy thing to pull off when the movie as a whole is impossible to take seriously.

By and large, the performances are on the money. Along with some great tongue-in-cheek moments from Greene and Richmond Arquette as grumpy detectives, Graham is memorable as a witchy friend of the most prominent murder victim (Bateman).



Phaedra Cinema

A Terminal Bliss production

in association with

Ron Travisano and Pamela Gidley

Writer-director Jordan Alan

Producers Pamela Gidley,

Ron Travisano, Jordan Alan

Executive producer Adam Fast

Director of photography Ron Travisano

Music Michael Mattioli

Editors Ed Marx, Chris Keenan, Jordan Alan



Molly McMannis Justine Bateman

Suzan Pretsel Heather Graham

Detective Finnigan Peter Greene

Detective Starr Richmond Arquette

Detective Furbal Lewis Arquette

Betty “Beta” Carotene Pamela Gidley

Ivy Roberts Teresa Hill

Jasmine Rose McGowan

Running time — 90 minutes

No MPAA rating