Jenna (Kari Alison Hodge) and Kate (Rachel Paulson) are a couple in quiet crisis; after almost two years together, their initial spark has faded, to be replaced by light bickering and passive aggressiveness. In the hope of brightening up their sex lives, Kate arranges a threesome with the effortlessly sexy, ridiculously cool Mia (Julia Eringer) – but the cracks in this fraught relationship only deepen as Jenna discovers that the situation is not entirely as it first seems. Over the course of one night, the three women discover the true importance of trust, honesty, and good communication.
Polyamory is a subject increasingly explored in independent LGBTQ+ cinema and Good Kisser establishes its trio of characters with this relevance to the community in mind; Jenna in particular is awkward and anxious with a desperate need to please her girlfriend, and these difficulties present a strikingly authentic depiction of an individual exploring non-monogamy for the first time. Kate, on the other hand, is pushy and self-centred, frequently testing the power balance between herself and her lovers. Jenna’s innocence clearly irritates her and this conflict is hard to watch, yet a necessity in establishing the shortcomings that led to their problems in the first place. Each moment of hostility is left to hang in the air, painfully unaddressed. Kate’s rushed compliments and half-hearted attempts to patch up their shattered bond simply skirt around the problem; she is far too proud to apologise for her misgivings. Such detail prevents Good Kisser from ever descending into the empty titillating fare of many a soft-porn that’s come before – though rest assured, there’s a fair amount of sex here, including the questionable use of a popsicle.
Jenna’s connection with Kate may be fading, but her chemistry with Mia is electric. Confident and seductive, Mia is the exact opposite of Jenna, yet a healthy amount of patience and empathy builds a genuine rapport between the two. “We don’t have to have sex, you know,” Mia reassures Jenna, gently alleviating the pressure that Kate has placed upon her girlfriend. Whilst Kate competes for Mia’s attention, Jenna naturally rouses curiosity with rambling storytelling and irrelevant facts, oddities that many would otherwise find cringeworthy. Though harmony is to be found between the three – particularly in the bedroom – Kate’s decision to view Jenna as a rival for Mia’s attentions unearths further problems in the couple’s relationship. Wisely, Good Kisser avoids presenting polyamory as the answer to love’s problems, instead using this simple plot as a means with which to explore the requirements of a healthy relationship.
Despite her attraction to Mia and her wish to continue with the night, it becomes clear that the arrangement is a difficult one for Jenna, and a revelation towards the end of the film solidifies her anxiety. Though the twists are sometimes predictable, the discussions around consent, respect and communication that Good Kisser provokes are noble, and the subversion of the lesbian threesome trope to explore the emotional needs of queer women is a laudable achievement. As our community rightfully becomes more open to the idea of polyamory, Good Kisser is a gentle reminder that, regardless of the number of people in your relationship, honesty in love is always the best policy.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Wendy Jo Carlton