The Last Kiss
2006, R, 115 min. Directed by Tony Goldwyn. Starring Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson, Eric Christian Olsen, Casey Affleck, Michael Weston, Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 15, 2006
If 40 is the new 30, no one bothered to tell screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby), whose script work here, itself an adaptation of Gabriele Muccino's 2001 film L'Ultimo Bacio, has an ensemble cast of late-twentysomethings reeling away in horror at the approach of their dreaded, triple-decade birthdays. Garden State's Braff is Michael, an architect who appears content with his life and the fact that he and his longtime girlfriend, Jenna (Barrett), are well under way on the baby track. But while attending the wedding of a friend, Michael is suddenly privy to all manner of champagne-fueled screeds about the "marriage trap," and, retiring to a nearby tree house (this is Michigan, after all), he meets cute college co-ed Kim (The OC's Bilson), a meeting that primes the third-act powderkeg of a plot, resulting in some spectacular emotional fireworks from nearly the entire cast. One of the finer pleasures of The Last Kiss' ensemble cast and multigenerational story is the portrayal of the 30-year-old marriage between Jenna's parents (Danner and Wilkinson), who give quietly riveting performances of the utmost nuance and sympathy, despite connubial troubles of their own. You could say The Last Kiss is something of a Garden State redux, but Braff's character here is less fanciful, less melodramatic, and far more prone to both thinking and doing the thoughtless things men tend to do when faced with lifetime milestones such as babies, marriages, mortgages, or rationalizing the potential bangability of that coltish co-ed in the passenger seat. Haggis has proven himself adept at fleshing out the backstories and front-loaded presents and futures of sprawling casts, as he does here, but without the spot-on acting talent from Affleck, Weston, and Olsen, who are all dealing with their own separated relationship crises, The Last Kiss would almost certainly feel like a stale retread of any one of a number of European romcom exports. Thanks to Haggis and the cast, who are convincing, often bitingly so, in their willingness to dive into the dark and unknowable depths of the modern American romantic relationship, The Last Kiss mirrors reality with remarkable faithfulness, including not just the good sex and couch cuddling but also the sudden, vindictive squalls and hope-destroying tsunamis of emotion, fear of exclusion, fear of responsibility, and fear of having to sleep on your own front porch in the rain because of that damnably bangable co-ed. Idiot.