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Last Kiss, The (2006)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Yes, Paul Haggis Can Write A Film Even Worse Than "Crash"
1 stars

“The Last Kiss” is a film that offers us the chance to spend two hours with some of the most obnoxious and self-centered characters to ever appear on a movie screen. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea if said characters were obnoxious and self-centered in interesting ways or, barring that, if the film at least called them out for their behavior. Alas, not only are they obnoxious and self-centered in the dullest manner possible–they go on and on about how no one understands them without ever showing a reason why anyone would want to in the first place–but the film almost seems to want us to admire and celebrate them for their collective jerkiness.

Based fairly closely on the 2002 Italian film “L’Ultimo Bacio,” “The Last Kiss” tells the story of Michael (Zach Braff), a going-on-30 architect whose long-time girlfriend, the smart and beautiful Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), has just learned that she is pregnant. This news comes as kind of a bummer to Michael because he is still in the grips of an extended adolescence and is not particularly eager to tackle the responsibilities of full adulthood. At a wedding for one of his buddies, Michael meets Kim (Rachel Bilson), a sexy college sophomore who represents all of the youthful freedom and surprise that he will miss out on by settling down with Jenna. He begins seeing Kim behind Jenna’s back while getting his buddies to cover up for him–alas, this fail-safe system collapses, he gets caught out and Jenna kicks him to the curb. Of course, now that he is free and unencumbered, he finally begins to realize what he had and begins his struggle to get it back.

Perhaps realizing that audiences might find Michael particular form of angst to be less than compelling, the film surrounds him with a collection of supporting characters who are, if such a thing is possible, even more annoying and unlikable than he is. One (Casey Affleck) is married and a father and is unable and/or unwilling to deal with the responsibilities of either. Another (Eric Christian Olsen) is a confirmed hedonist who seems to have met his dream woman until she begins to show signs of wanting to lead him into a life of horrible domesticity as well. A third pal (Michael Weston) recently broke up with his girlfriend (Marley Shelton) and has taken to breaking into her apartment and punching her new boyfriend. However, the prize for the most appalling person in the film goes to Anna (Blythe Danner), who is Jenna’s mother and who responds to the news of her daughter’s pregnancy by walking out on her longtime husband (Tom Wilkinson)–he’s a psychiatrist, you see and therefore a cold fish who doesn’t understand the needs of people–and trying to rekindle a romance with a now-married old flame (Harold Ramis in a role that appears to have been severely truncated, no doubt to his everlasting relief.)

The notion of watching a group of young men being dragged kicking and screaming into their long-delayed adulthood is not necessarily a bad idea for a film–after all, it worked for the likes of Federico Fellini (“I Vitelloni”), Barry Levinson (“Diner”), Noah Baumbach (“Kicking and Screaming”) and, coincidentally, Zach Braff (“Garden State”). The difference, though, is that those earlier films actually displayed an interest in what made their characters tick while at the same time implicitly criticizing them for their lack of any discernible emotional maturity. In “The Last Kiss,” on the other hand, director Tony Goldwyn and hack-screenwriter-du-jour PaulHaggis, perhaps mindful of potentially alienating their target audience of Gen-Y mopers by suggesting that their confusion and anxieties are no different from those faced by other generations, offer no such understanding or criticism. None of the main characters do much of anything except for complain about how nobody understands them, their various plunges into misery and despair are entirely the result of their own ill-advised behavior and when their problems wind up resolving themselves in the end, there is never any real sense that any of them have actually learned anything in the process.

There are a lot of good actors on display here but none of them are able to overcome Haggis’s atrociously glib and one-dimensional script. Braff can be a likable enough personality but his low-key persona is singularly unsuited for the character he is playing here–even though he is playing a character who is basically sleepwalking through his life, that doesn’t mean that he can sleepwalk through the part. As the flirty young thing who kick-starts the proceedings, Rachel Bilson is cute enough but she never gets a chance to demonstrate any of the feistiness or wit that she shows every week on “The O.C.” As the only character in the film that anyone with even a moderate IQ would want to spend more than five minutes with, Jacinda Barrett turns in the best performance in the film–in fact, she winds up undermining her own work because you can’t believe that a character as smart, sweet and charming as her could possibly tolerate a dope like Michael for as long as she has, let alone be willing to bear his foul seed. On the other hand, the worst performance by far comes from the usually reliable Blythe Danner, whose rendition of a suburban woman apparently suffering from delusions that she is a modern-day Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary (you keep waiting for a scene in which she checks out the train schedules) is so over-the-top that it takes a while to realize that it isn’t supposed to be a joke after all.

“The Last Kiss” is the kind of film where you almost wish that you could magically transport yourself onto the screen with the characters so that you can personally have the pleasure of slapping some sense into them. That said, there is one group of people who probably should see it and they are new couples going out together for the first time. If he or she thinks that it is nothing but a load of nonsense, you can easily surmise that they possess the qualities of wit, taste and intelligence in spades. If, on the other hand, they wind up enjoying the film and babble about how much it reminds them of themselves–you should excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and just keep on running.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15007&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/15/06 00:15:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Boston Film Festival For more in the 2006 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/06/14 laYcOmvuIcgOOHrV dgSbKBMXVYbIGYdAPl 4 stars
4/22/08 Jack Sommersby Amusing, perceptive and not a little bit witty. Very good performances. 4 stars
9/24/07 Beau i found this very enjoyable, great drama and performance from jacinda barret!! 4 stars
3/19/07 John Small point, but at 29 a person is about to enter the fourth decade of their life. 4 stars
2/17/07 Nick P This is a very great movie, Zach Braff is an amazing actor, Garden State is the greatest!!! 5 stars
12/12/06 William Goss Despite few laughs, rambling melodrama about mopey men and their dissolving relationships. 3 stars
10/09/06 gina Good movie, very realistic. Great performances by Barret, Danner.Not really for escapists. 4 stars
10/07/06 Bob Good movie, decent review. 4 stars
10/06/06 Michael Coovert I love Zach Braff. I think he is brilliant in all of his performances; good movie 4 stars
9/28/06 Maureen When did it become socially acceptable for a 29 yr old man to act like a child? Grow up. 2 stars
9/20/06 Frank Characters need to grow up. 2 stars
9/20/06 Ancaster Film Fest Wanted a little more, but with Paul Haggis' script and fine actors it's a good film. 4 stars
9/19/06 Luisa Good acting, good soundtrack, realistic relationship situations 4 stars
9/17/06 JohnW Entrenching, thought-provoking. Story of infidelity with some subtle twists. 4 stars
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  15-Sep-2006 (R)
  DVD: 26-Dec-2006



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