The Last Kiss
2006Director: Tony Goldwyn
Cast: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson
ony Goldwyn’s The Last Kiss wants to be about many things. It has elements regarding issues of responsibility, immobility, depression, acceptance, infidelity, and the all too familiar growing up/old. It tries to wield these elements into a small-time mosaic of good-natured Americana, but only does half the work. The rest of the effort is pieced together with routine melodrama, tired revelations, and one-note performances that only seem to work on a scene-by-scene basis. Oscar winner Paul Haggis, of Crash fame, penned the film based on the 2001 Italian dramedy, L’ Ultimo Bacio. Throughout the endeavor, Haggis flaunts his skill for setting up multiple character arcs. Unfortunately, along with it, he brings his seeming inability to stretch their relevance into points of interest. Zach Braff leads the surprisingly solid cast of veterans, fresher faces, and the underused in a film that, with unrelenting volume, shouts to our generation, letting us know: if you are under thirty, your midlife crisis is much, much closer than you think.
The film mostly focuses on five best friends—which quickly becomes four, when one of them is married in a fairytale wedding that the film surprisingly leaves untouched by its cynicism—all rapidly approaching thirty years of age. Through basic exposition, we learn that these are life long friends (how convenient!) and throughout the wedding reception, which is the jumping-off point for all the conflict in the film, we quickly learn of each main character’s distress and/or basic traits. Izzy (Michael Weston) is very drunkenly dealing with the fact that his girlfriend since high school has just left him, while he has just quit his job working for his father in a cheese factory. Chris (Casey Affleck) is married to what we are led to believe is a shrew of a wife (Lauren Lee Smith) with a son. He can’t figure why is wife is so angry all of the time, creating his miserable existence. Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) is our resident swinging single. A bartender who hooks up with a different girl most every night, he is in minor denial of his real age and lives life as the quintessential Casanova of the group, who loves his life just the way it is.
Michael (Braff), a twenty-nine year old architect with a sad face and a quick wit, has just found out that is long-time girlfriend, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) will be having their baby and has had no choice but to be extremely happy about this, on the outside. They are not married, as marriage just seems too “final” to him, and he’s having trouble expressing just how terrified he is of becoming a father, i.e. finally growing up. Enter Kim (The O.C. star, Rachel Bilson.) Kim is an adorable twenty-year-old college student and musician with a predilection towards introspection that has taken a liking to Michael. Through a couple of scenes of flirtation and waxing intellectual about life and other such things, we learn her intentions in no uncertain terms. Here we get our first honest account of Michael’s feelings. He is in “crisis,” and realizes that most everyone else he knows is as well. Boo hoo, says the audience.
The brunt of the film deals with his desire for infidelity, despite the genuinely rosy feelings he has for his beloved. The possibility of straying frees him and makes him feel a bit younger, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, each subsequent character very quietly deals with plot mechanics in their own bland way. The film does an admirable job of introducing various conflicts, but when the time comes to deal with them, it seems a bit rushed—not to mention forced. Admittedly, Michael’s character should be in the forefront, but The Last Kiss doesn’t present itself as a singular love story. The fact that it becomes one (a somewhat tired one, at that) midway speaks to its general confusion. It basically wants to tell us about this new age, and how to deal with life and love in it without losing your mind in the process. Thanks, The Last Kiss!
With Braff’s performance, we are shown just how much mileage one can get out of charming us with mediocre acting. The Scrubs star is slowly but surely becoming something of a poster boy for the ponderous, and only slightly emo, goofus in all of us. In The Last Kiss, his comic timing is honed and natural (if not a bit predictable), but his dramatic flare, as it were, can usually be likened to that wallpaper pattern shirt gifted to him in Garden State. His flippantly morose everyman is only as relatable as it is recognizable. For the viewer, the interest doesn’t go much further than that. When he attempts to give us Bill Murray ala Lost In Translation/Broken Flowers, we can’t help but be reminded that we are watching a performance. However, Braff’s tender fuck-ups and quiet moments are usually saved by his ability to make an audience giggle, or bringing about one of those gosh darned single tear moments. The film does have some nice moments of finely acted drama. It has some nice moments of wisdom, provided with ease from Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson, who play Jenna’s parents. It has some nice moments of comedy. However, the moments don’t add up to much of a film, and it is but a preachy slice of life when all is said and done.
The Last Kiss is playing in theaters across the county.
By: Daniel Rivera
Published on: 2006-09-19