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Mango Kiss

Cuteness is one of those qualities that can rarely be achieved head-on, as evidenced by Sascha Rice's first feature "Mango Kiss." Thinly plotted, pic tells the story of two "baby dykes" who imperil their relationship by overindulging in extramarital kink amid San Francisco's lesbian "candy store." Theatrical distribution wooks unwikewy.

With: Michelle Wolff, Daniele Ferraro, Sally Kirkland, Shannon Rossiter, Dru Mouser, Tina Marie Murray, Joe Mellis.

Cuteness is one of those qualities that can rarely be achieved head-on, as evidenced by Sascha Rice’s first feature “Mango Kiss.” Thinly plotted even at 80 minutes, pic tells the story of two “baby dykes” from the Heartland who imperil their relationship by overindulging in extramarital kink amid San Francisco’s lesbian “candy store.” Light touch is welcome, but pic works so hard to render kinkiness precious that the effect is just silly, then downright annoying. Surface elements are saleable enough to give indie production gay-fest legs and decent specialized home-format prospects. Theatrical distribution wooks unwikewy.

Tomboyish Lou (Michelle Wolff) and femmy blonde Sassafras (Daniele Ferraro) are just friends, but graduation to lover status is pretty much a done deal when they road-trip to San Francisco after college, then rent a flat together. Mutually inexperienced and excited by the wide-open social scene, they make up elaborate rules designed to let each other play outside their fledgling relationship while staying sorta-committed.

Naturally, this works better in theory than practice. Lou chafes as Sassy explores her hitherto unknown aggressive side via role-plays with bad-“boy” punk bassist Mickey (Shannon Rossiter). Tables are then turned as Sassy watches Lou get busy with both dominatrix Chelsea Chuwawa (Tina Marie Murray) and literal girl-next-door Leslie (Dru Mouser).

All this may sound pretty outre, but between production design’s kitschy bright colors, crude camp fantasy sequences, vapid dialogue and over-dependence on quirky party-mix-tape soundtrack, “Kiss” is more cloying than carnal. It doesn’t help that leads address each other as “Princess” and “Daddy.” Thesps can’t be blamed for doing as told, but by the time the trite script expects us to take their wee crises seriously, they’ve become as irritating as children having tantrums on a sugar rush. Stunning news that “relationships are confusing” does not provide depth.Production values are decent, tech package OK. Pic was shot in 35mm, but shown at San Francisco Gay Fest in Beta SP. Sole name thesp Sally Kirkland is wasted as Sassy’s divorced ex-hippie mum, who offers occasional words of sexual cautionary wisdom.

Mango Kiss

Production: A Sunpallah Prods. presentation. Produced by Erin O'Malley, Joe Mellis, Sascha Rice. Directed by Sascha Rice. Screenplay, Rice, Sarah Brown, based on the stage play "Bermuda Triangles: The Non-Monogamy Experiment" by Brown.

Crew: Camera (color), John Pirozzi; editor, Cindy Parisotto; music, Matthew Ferraro; production designer, Nathalie Diericks; costume designer, Tietjen Fischer; sound, Matt Nicolay; casting, Joe Mellis. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Festival, June 13, 2003. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Michelle Wolff, Daniele Ferraro, Sally Kirkland, Shannon Rossiter, Dru Mouser, Tina Marie Murray, Joe Mellis.

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