Scrubs star Zach Braff does what he does best in this enjoyable remake of an award-winning Italian film from a couple of years ago. He is the downbeat, angst-ridden but charming everyman for a whole generation of thirty-something Americans. Maybe he, like them, should just grow-up.
Michael (Zach Braff) is about to turn thirty, Jenna, his long-term girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett) is newly pregnant and the bewitching Kim (Rachel Bilson) is on the prowl and up for some fun. What should the poor lad do? Well this is American college boy territory so he spends a lot of time anguishing over his choices, lamenting his lost youth and regretting his decisions. Meanwhile his friends Chris (Casey Afflick), Izzy (Michael Weston) and Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) are having their relationship problems too. And, if that’s not enough of a whinge, Jenna’s parents (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson) are going through a bumpy marriage too. Come on everyone, what’s the matter with you?
Time Out: “The film’s middle-of-the-road sensibility makes it the cinematic equivalent of that Coldplay song on the soundtrack. Everything’s diluted to maximum blandness.”
Christianity Today: “The movie would have done well to balance the romantic angst with at least one couple that was cheerfully together and had a healthy relationship over a long run.”
Director Tony Goldwyn has made a loyal Americanised copy of Gabriele Muccino’s 2001 movie L’Ultimo Bacio that dealt with four twenty-something Italian lads coming to terms with their age and their relationships. What is this with everyone remaking other people’s ideas? Hasn’t anyone got a new idea anymore?
Having said that, Tony Goldwyn’s film is a perfectly watchable romantic comedy-drama about nice young middle class people from Wisconsin trying to sort out their emotional lives and, mostly, trying to do the decent thing when things go wrong.
Goldwyn’s fluid use of a subtly roving camera keeps the action sharp and pacey – even, at times seemingly chasing the characters into a corner. He is particularly inventive in his creative use of soft-focus especially when Zach Braff at the front of a shot often loses definition as his confusion increases.
The film may not be Hamlet or Apocalypse Now but then it is not pretending to be either. Scripted by the writer of Crash, the movie gently meanders between the lives of the main characters who are all going through an emotional crisis.
Nothing very profound is said but then that is true of most relationships. People struggle to find their own slice of happiness without really knowing what they want or even if it is achievable. The film avoids a lot of the sentimentality associated with this genre and refuses to draw obvious conclusions. As someone says, when marriage was invented, life expectancy was thirty – so these 29ers have a slim chance of settling into a happy long-term relationship.
Zach Braff is certainly no Hamlet but he is perfectly cast as Michael, a young man, about to turn thirty who is frightened that life with the woman he loves and a baby on the way might mean that the future holds no surprises. His face, with those cartoon lips, is very good at expressing a number of totally different emotions all being repressed at exactly the same time.
His three love-lorn buddies are all well characterised too. Eric Christian Olsen gives an uninhibitedly athletic performance as Kenny who wants nothing more profound than getting naked with sexually athletic women. Michael Weston as the love-crazed Izzy mixes just the right amount of humour with psychotic pathos but the outstanding acting comes from Casey Afflick (Chris) who is particularly moving in an underplayed performance as the young father whose marriage is being torn apart by the pressures of parenthood.
The women in their lives are painted less than flatteringly but here again, the film avoids sentimentality. Jacinda Barret (Jenna), looking very realistically pregnant, succeeds in keeping our loyalty even when her nest-making is at its most irritating whilst Rachel Bilson, as Kim, the other woman, is gorgeous, predatory and wicked but also vulnerable and likeable.
There are strong performances from Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson as Jenna’s parents. Blythe Danner, who is Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, is also Chris Martin’s mother-in-law, so it must be her fault that the film is marred by a particularly sickening Coldplay track.
The Last Kiss is an enjoyable, beautifully executed and slightly bleak comedy that takes a wry and loving look at human frailty without telling us anything particularly new or giving us any answers.
And, impressively for a romantic comedy, there is very little need for a sick bag – if only they’d left Coldplay off the soundtrack.
Eric Christian Olsen