The Last Kiss
Writer Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) has sharpened his pencil to script The Last Kiss, a remake of the Italian “L’Ultimo Bacio”, by Gabrielle Mucchino; remaining faithful to the honesty of the original. By the way, take the time to view the films of European filmmakers; it will be worth the effort. Best of Youth –also Italian, is firmly in my top ten.
The Last Kiss Review
In this film, Michael (Zach Braff) and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) are the central couple of four (the other three are his friends: Chris (Casey Affleck), Izzy (Michael Weston), and Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen).
And what better vehicle to thicken the drama than at a wedding. Where else can you conveniently unite former girlfriends, and new sweet young things, than at the ceremony of holy matrimony. Everyone looking their best and looking FOR the best (with an especially dis-inhibiting effect on women).
Braff’s character (hard to forget Garden State, isn’t it?) has that same look of unsolicited disbelief. His character, even through his night of betrayal, keeps that same attitude of unguarded honesty that endears him to the audience (to the point of pathetic at the end of the film– but pathos rewarded).
Barrett’s character, Michael’s pregnant and virtuous girlfriend, with her professional parents (played by both, the brilliant, smoky voiced, Blythe Danner; and master of emotional repression, Tom Wilkinson), give us 1950’s sexual politics, except for the glaring lack of a wedding ring. The parents are vintage 1960’s, unsparing in their permissiveness.
Up front, The Last Kiss is the story of a man hitting 30 but feeling much older as responsibilities close in, like credit card debt. His girl friend (what an inadequate title that is; like calling your mother, your caretaker), is pregnant, talking about marriage and (the tie-breaker) buying a house. On the surface, she is worth all of those.
Refreshingly, for a romantic comedy/drama of sorts, none of the women paired up with the four men friends, know each other; so we are spared the battle plans of conspiring, cheated upon girlfriends. In this film, except for the main characters, it’s hard to tell who deserves what: Chris and his newlywed separate; Izzy can’t accept the reality of his lover dumping HIM; and the sexy surfer stud, Kenny, who thinks he has finally found (at the wedding) the perfect sexually unleashed female, (Marley Shelton as a dynamite brunette), is tricked into meeting the parents.
Maybe that’s the point of the film; it’s a serious game, this thing called love. Once we make an investment, there is a cost to not seeing it through. To cut and run is only an early option–and even then, someone will get hurt–proven by Michael’s one night stand with the perky (and, come on Michael, far too YOUNG and IMATURE) sophomore flirt, Kim (Rachael Bilson).
Jenna’s parents (Danner and Wilkinson) give us an added generational layer to the otherwise 30 something cast. There is a peculiarly telling scene where Danner’s character is staring disconsolately into the bedroom mirror while Wilkinson’s character (ironically, a psychologist) lies on the bed, reading. She is going thorough her own mid-life crisis (one that Braff’s character is going through early) and, characteristic of the splintery writing of Haggis, we see the blissfully unaware mate missing the signs, until she throws a bottle at him. And the cover-up is shattered.
So it is throughout the film; words of truth shatter the complacency of expectations.
In the interests of getting all said and done in an hour and forty-four minutes, some of the resolutions are rushed: Kenny and Izzy buy a motor home and head for Tierra Del Fuego, Chris and his young wife agree to share custody of their infant son (in the saddest of the four relationships), and Michael does his penance to regain Jenna
One thing the movie doesn’t overlook is the timelessness of traditional behaviors expected in relationships –be they the fifties, sixties, or the new millennium: fidelity, passion, and mutual respect. Love may start it; but it takes work and –dare I say it– commitment, to make it happen.