The Last Kiss review by Mike Long

While movies are fiction, dramas, especially independent dramas, like to present a realistic portrayal of the world. They often feature real locations and the characters have real-sounding jobs and quasi-realistic conversations. These films are often referred to as "slice of life" movies. But, being movies, something has to be exaggerated, and this element is usually the relationships between the characters. And rarely have I seen a film where the relationships are as exaggerated or depressing as they are in The Last Kiss.

The Last Kiss follows the lives of several couples and friends. Michael (Zach Braff) and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) have been together for several years, and they've just learned that Jenna is pregnant. And yet, they aren't ready to get married. Jenna's parents, Stephen (Tom Wilkinson) and Anna (Blythe Danner), are seemingly happy together. Chris (Casey Affleck) and his wife Lisa (Lauren Lee Smith) are struggling to balance their lives with their infant child. Izzy (Michael Weston) is devastated as he's recently been dumped by Arriana (Marley Shelton). Bartender Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) is the only single (by choice) person in the group, and he beds a new woman every night.

At the film's outset, the group of friends attend a wedding. There, Michael meets local college student Kim (Rachel Bilson) and strikes up a seemingly innocent conversation. Except, Kim isn't shy and she doesn't hide the fact that she's coming onto Michael. Following this, Jenna begins talking about marriage, leading Michael to have thoughts about the finality of matrimony. These thoughts lead him back to Kim. Meanwhile, Anna decides that she can't take leaving with Stephen any longer. The tension between Chris and Lisa begins to reach a boiling point. One of Kenny's one-night-stands wants to get serious. And Izzy's depression only gets deeper. As everyone around him is falling apart, Michael convinces himself that as he's going to spend the rest of his life with Jenna, he should do something with Kim.

I hate to sound incredibly judgmental and harsh (but I am a critic after all), but I can't believe that this film received the green light. For starters, we've seen this story before, and I'm not even talking about the fact that The Last Kiss is a remake of an Italian film. Beyond that, the movie is reminiscent of films like The Four Seasons, Grand Canyon, and any number of Woody Allen films. The mid-life crises and the young man panicking about commitment are old and hackneyed premises and The Last Kiss does nothing at all to try and make these stories new. Screenwriter Paul Haggis was able to put a new spin on old ideas with his previous works Crash and Million Dollar Baby, but nearly everything here feels clichéd and predictable.

My other big problem with The Last Kiss is the extreme nature of the relationships in the movie. Yes, there can’t be drama without drama, but this movie takes things too far. We often hear the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce, so we can extrapolate that assume that half of relationships aren’t good. But, ALL of the relationships in this film suffer from major problems. According to director Tony Goldwyn, the newlywed couple at the wedding are supposed to be the happy couple in the film...but we never see them again! The fact that everyone in this movie is miserable makes it difficult to take the film seriously. Every story needs a sense of balance at some point and this movie leans too far into its negative view of committed relationships. Are there people out there who fight, who are unhappy, and who cheat? Of course there are. But, there are also happy couples as well. This movie need a couple which was at least semi-happy for the audience to grasp onto and, from a narrative perspective, for the other characters to envy.

I've yet to decide if the casting of Zach Braff was a stroke of genius or a huge mistake. Those of us who know him from Scrubs and Garden State think of him as a funny, gentle, and stand-up kind of guy. So, to see him as someone who is considering cheating on his pregnant girlfriend is very some ways. But, it's also very hard to buy Braff in this role at times, as he's forced to be so cold. Not to say that he isn't a good actor, but playing the bad guy may be outside of his realm. The greatest sin here is that Braff only has a few funny moments in the movie. No matter what you may think of Braff, he's a gifted comedic actor and despite the fact that this is a very serious and again, depressing, movie, Braff should have been given more opportunities to be funny.

To put it mildly, The Last Kiss is a waste. The movie features a fantastic cast paired with an award-winning screenwriter. The result is a putrid, depressing mess that plays like a nightmare view of modern relationships. Even someone like me, who’s been accused of being overly bitter about past relationships, found the film to be offensive. Don’t give The Last Kiss the first chance to ruin your day.

The Last Kiss makes an inappropriate pass at DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. On the whole, the image is fairly sharp and clear, although there is a notable amount of grain in the daytime shots. The colors look fine and the flesh tones look natural. Edge enhancement is kept to a minimum. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The film is a dialogue-driven drama, so there’s only a few moments where the surround sound or bass effects are noticeable.

The Last Kiss DVD contains a number of special features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with director Tony Goldwyn and actor Zach Braff. As noted above, Braff is funny and he proves it on this very loose commentary track. The pair talk about the film and constantly poke fun at one another and the other cast members. The fun continues on a second COMMENTARY with Goldwyn, Braff, and actors Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson, Michael Weston, and Eric Christian Olsen. Oh, if only the movie could have been as fun as the making of sounds! This group has a blast reminiscing about the movie and sharing humorous anecdotes about behavior on the set. Goldwyn shares more thoughts on The Last Kiss in “Filmmaker’s Perspective” (3 minutes). “Getting Together” (27 minutes) is a making-of featurette which touches on the script adaptation and then explores the characters and casting. Four scenes are examined by cast & crew in “Behind Our Favorite Scenes” (8 minutes). Further analysis is given in “Last Thoughts” (3 minutes). The DVD contains 7 DELETED SCENES which run about 14 minutes -- there are two ALTERNATE ENDINGS here. The extras are finished off by a GAG REEL (3 minutes), a MUSIC VIDEO for the song “Ride” by Cary Brothers (the clip was directed by Braff), and the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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