The great feat that Matt Austin-Sadowski’s elegant film Pretend We’re Kissing accomplishes is that it is very much about Toronto, and yet also quite universal.
After all, this works mainly because Benny (Dov Tiefenbach) is such an Everyman. Though the film features locations instantly recognizable from The 6, the characters are instantly familiar to non-residents of the Big Smoke.
This sense of familiarization begins with Benny, who is told throughout the film, usually by his own inner monologue, but by others, to stop being a Benny. There are only a certain number of conflicts possible, and this Man vs. Himself conflict is accelerated by outer Benny’s battle with his inner Benny.
This conflict could not be possible without a partner to push him towards the Pas de Deux, never quite becoming a Folie à deux. This potential partner is Jordan, (Tommie-Amber Pirie), whom Benny spots at a concert, but is too much in his own head to approach. This leads into an extended sequence in which Benny relives his neurosis with Autumn (Zoë Kravitz), who is quite naked in the scene, yet feels almost like a spirit? A filmic device? Almost ethereal. Turns out she’s his bisexual roommate, who is almost the yin to his yang, always saying and doing what she could instead be thinking.
The interplay that they share is not so much between the two of them, but Benny’s inner monologue comes to the fore, and quite frankly, is hilarious, and quite lewd. Immediately the audience recognizes that Pretend We’re Kissing is willing to drop the gloves, and the meet cutes and hippy dippy feeling by which we have come to feel conditioned. PWK is willing to play in the mud of Hogtown. It is the adult sandbox.
Though mainly playing out as a three hander, (Benny, Jordan and Benny’s head), Jordan is no throwaway character, bringing her own issues and caveats to the equation. Austin-Sadowski does these reveals in such a way that it is like, hey, no big deal. But in a sense it is a big deal that they are not such big deals.
All the emotion and the connection between Benny and Jordan comes crashing down in a scene that serves as a metaphor for the inability to connect with a new person, but serves as a performance piece in and of itself. It is a difficult scene to watch, but is ecstatic in its sense of honesty and revelation.
But there has been more to the story all along, and Sadowski places Easter Eggs in the background of Toronto that a careful viewer will discover and anticipate. There is more to Eggs Benny than his relationship with Jordan, and more than his relationship with his roommate Autumn, and definitely more than his relationship with his own head.
The moral of the story could be that he needs to stop pretending and just live. There is definitely an unfinished aspect to PWK, but such is life. Benny might be scrambled and over easy, but after all of the intimacy that we have experienced, he is still a good egg.