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The Last Kiss

2007-05-14 12:00
What it’s about:

Michael (Zach Braff) isn’t quite thirty yet and already he has everything he could want – a good job, a brilliant, beautiful and recently pregnant fiancee named Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), great friends and a nice place to live. But all he can think of is how his entire life suddenly seems so planned out. His best friends (Casey Affleck, Michael Weston, and Eric Christian Olsen) aren’t much help – they’re all struggling through their own personal meltdowns. Then he meets a gorgeous 18-year-old named Kim (Rachel Bilson), and suddenly his priorities seem much more simple.

What we thought:

Zach Braff needs to be really careful for the next few years. His last movie, 2004’s Garden State (which he wrote and directed), touched such a nerve with 20 and 30-somethings that we’re half expecting him to become a kind of voice of a generation. But if he keeps turning out flaccid pseudo-dramas like The Last Kiss then he’s going to lose all that carefully cultivated mojo faster than you can say “zeitgeist”.

This might be piling too much pressure on the 31-year-old actor – after all he didn’t write The Last Kiss. That dubious honour lies with Paul Haggis - Hollywood’s newest superstar screenwriter. Haggis, who shot to fame by writing and directing Crash, seems to be everywhere lately, writing for everything from Casino Royale to Letters from Iwo Jima. In this case Haggis merely adapted a hugely successful Italian film called L' Ultimo Bacio, but has only succeeded in muddying the brilliance of the original.

It’s not that Haggis slips up technically. He has a great ear for dialogue and an even better instinct for scene making. It’s more that the whole screenplay is pretending to be something it’s not. On the surface the comparisons to Garden State are inescapable – a wryly humorous and unexpectedly poignant slice of life with a talented cast and a great soundtrack. And yet, when you look a little deeper, they couldn’t be more different.

Where Garden State was sweet, complex and vulnerable, The Last Kiss is cynical, adolescent and manipulative. There’s no doubt The Last Kiss wants to delve into the human soul the way Braff’s last film did, but it can’t resist acting like a big kid and going straight for the money shot. All the emotional capital it builds up in the many tender emotional scenes is quickly squandered on cheap thrills (panting sex scenes anyone?) and childish displays of fidelity. How are we supposed to take a film seriously when the main character solves the biggest crisis in his life by sitting on a front porch for days on end, hoping his estranged lover will let him inside?

But, despite these flaws, The Last Kiss remains watchable enough. The likeable cast give equally likeable performances, with Casey Affleck doing some particularly good work. Funnily enough it’s the older cast members - Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson as Jenna’s parents – who offer the most compelling performances. The subplot about their loveless marriage is about the only thing in the film that really rings true. As for the much anticipated film debut of the gorgeous Rachel Bilson, she is convincing enough as a coquette, though where just where personality ends and performance takes over is a little uncertain.

It might seem unnecessarily harsh to condemn The Last Kiss as a failure. After all, at least it has ambition and wit, even if it wastes them. The filmmakers could have just churned out yet another slapstick comedy or effects driven actioner. And yet you can’t help but feel irritated by how close they come to being great.

- Alistair Fairweather
Don't be fooled by the presence of Zack Braff - The Last Kiss is nothing like his last film. This is adolescent male fantasy masquerading as sincere human drama.

Joe 2007/03/09 10:50 AM
Well, I liked it I haven't seen Garden State, but I'll take your word for it that its better than this. Still though, I really thought this was funny and very insightful at times...
Neezaam 2007/03/09 8:26 PM
Entertaining I enjoyed this movie very much,I only realised now when reading the review that it was adapted from the Italian version which I have also seen which was brilliant.Only by comparing would I call this new version not as strong and understand what the reviewer is saying,but without comparisons the movie is good and definitly worth the movie moolah.
dustin 2007/03/22 1:35 AM
great i thought it was definitely worth the 1 hour and a half. very entertaining and made one think what u'd do in that situation... watch it with your chick!
dhayana 2007/05/06 1:49 AM
loved it !!!!!! i will just die if i meet him in person!!!!!!! ;)
dhayana 2007/05/06 1:49 AM
loved it !!!!!! i will just die if i meet him in person!!!!!!! ;)
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