“Like that…the spell was cast.”
The title of this article is not meant to indicate that Prelude to a Kiss is a flawless film. As wonderful as I think it is, it received mixed reviews on its release in 1992, and unlike that other Meg Ryan oddity Joe Versus the Volcano, it hasn’t even managed to acquire a cult following.
Nevertheless I watch Prelude to a Kiss at least once a year. I still vividly recall the first time I ever saw it, and always wish I could have that experience again. More so than in perhaps any other film of her career, Meg Ryan is genuinely lovable here. Alec Baldwin stoically carries the weight of the story, and they make such an appealing couple, it scarcely matters that the stellar supporting cast; comprising Ned Beatty, Stanley Tucci, Patty Duke and Kathy Bates are reduced to roughly two scenes of screen time each. Leaving aside any criticism of the body swap premise and the mystical aspects of the plot, the opening act of Prelude to a Kiss provides one of the most intoxicating half hours I’ve seen in any motion picture. No stunts, no slapstick, just movie magic. Meg Ryan magic. You see the romance between the two of them. You see the idealism and free spirit of Meg Ryan, and the heartbreaking talk about fear and personal courage.
For many people the film loses its way from the moment Meg’s character Rita kisses Julius (Sydney Walker), but those first forty minutes always hit me in a deeply personal way. Will I ever see another film with an opening as perfect as this one? It’s hard to imagine.