MOVIE REVIEW- Kiss off: Wishing for what might be
Who knew relationships were so damn complicated? Things were simple in the movies I grew up with. If I'd seen The Last Kiss when I was a teenager... I don't know what I would have done differently, but I wouldn't have been so optimistic about the outcome.
Zach Braff moves from Garden State to the Badger State in The Last Kiss, which is based on an Italian film of the same name (L'ultimo bacio). The script was Americanized by Paul Haggis (Crash) and directed by Tony Goldwyn (A Walk on the Moon), better known as an actor, but not a bad director.
The story is so similar to Edward Burns' The Groomsmen that it's a good example of how two people can tell the same story but one gets it right. Like Burns' character, Michael (Braff) has a pregnant girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett as Jenna); but they're not ready to get married. "We don't want it to look like we're getting married because we have to," Jenna explains to her parents (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson). Michael's rationale: "If you really love somebody, why do you need a photo album of drunk people in tuxedos to prove it?"
The truth, of course, is that Michael– a month shy of 30– isn't ready to commit and lock in the rest of his life with "no more surprises" (If that's what he thinks, he's in for some surprises!), even though he's aware Jenna's the perfect woman to do it with.
At a friend's wedding, Michael gets a surprise when Kim (Rachel Bilson), a beautiful college student, flirts with him, opening a range of possibilities from an alternative future to a final fling.
Michael has his group of friends who would be his groomsmen if he ever decided to become a groom. As in Burns' film, one of them (Michael Weston as Izzy) is obsessed with a woman (Marley Shelton) who dumped him, and one (Casey Affleck as Chris) is in a troubled marriage. The other member is Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen), who his envious pals see as a stud but who sees himself as a serial monogamist. His latest conquest is Danielle (Cindy Sampson).
To get over his heartbreak, Izzy quits his job at his father's cheese company and plans to drive to Tierra del Fuego. At one time or another most of his friends opt to go along.
Kim notes that what used to be called a "midlife crisis" is striking her generation at an earlier age; but there are no limits, as Jenna's parents are also dealing with one in their late fifties, after 30 years of marriage.
Braff's character isn't fundamentally different from the one he played in Garden State, but he's worth revisiting in this new situation. Barrett proves worthy of moving to the A-list, and Danner (whose resemblance to Lauren Bacall is scary) and Wilkinson are superb.
For Michael and his friends, a boys' night out consists of hiring a couple of strippers to perform lesbian sex acts for their amusement.
The Last Kiss may drive some women to lesbianism (and some gay men to women!), when they see what's available on the male side of the gender divide. As a relationship movie that focuses on men, it will probably be seen and appreciated more by women, who will come away knowing more about the opposing gender than most men would want them to know.
Michael's idea of compromise, when Jenna wants them to buy a house together, is a conversation. "We're talking about how we feel," he says, as if she should accept that as the next best thing to buying a house.
They should advertise The Last Kiss in women's magazines as "The movie men don't want you to see."