The Last Kiss Reviewby Steve Rhodes (Steve DOT Rhodes AT InternetReviews DOT com)
October 12th, 2006
THE LAST KISS
A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2006 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): *** 1/2
THE LAST KISS, loosely adapted from an equally charming Italian film of the same name, is a romantic comedy that's delightfully funny, warmly romantic, and touchingly dramatic. The characters are appealing, and the dialog is sharp and smart. It's also hilarious. The characters even manage the near impossible, which is to still be interesting even when, on occasion, they're screaming. This usually turns good actors into unintelligible idiots.
The context of the movie is that everyone is in crisis with their love lives. Zach Braff plays Michael, one of four 29-year-old, long-time best buddies who are the marrying age. One, played by Casey Affleck, is already and unhappily married. He and his wife bicker constantly, and it's driving him crazy. The other guys aren't married but have their own set of problems. The bonding of the guys is reminiscent of DINER, but the difference here is that the guys aren't really important other than providing some necessary narrative glue. The story is really about Michael, the two women in his life, and one of the women's parents. These five characters are really what the story is about. And these five each have their set of relationship trials and tribulations to deal with.
As the film opens, Michael, while enjoying a happy family dinner, reflects that he now has everything he hoped for back when he was in school. He wanted to still be hanging out with his old friends and wanted to be with a beautiful woman. His friends are with him, and he and his pretty girlfriend Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) are about to announce that they are pregnant. This joint pregnancy will later become more of a single one when Michael's fidelity comes into question. At the home of Jenna's parents, played brilliantly by Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson, Michael begins to get the look of a deer caught in the headlights. Outwardly he says how happy he is, but inwardly is scared to death of the finality of a lifelong commitment to another person. And, as it turns out, Jenna's parents are about to split themselves, having a host of issues that strain their "contractual obligations," as her dad so crudely puts it to his wife.
At the wedding of a friend, a fetching and petite brunette named Kim (Rachel Bilson) gives Michael the eye, and he is instantly and foolishly smitten. Finding out that she is still in college and is exactly a decade younger than him, he, nonetheless, decides to drop by to see her sometime. Looking like he thinks he is losing his mind for even thinking about dating someone else, he stays with Kim at the party until she has to go. Luckily this all happens out of Jenna's eyesight. Barrett's compelling portrayal of Jenna is the movie's secret sauce. Although Michael is the central character, it's Jenna that we're rooting for.
With a baby on the way and with a live-in girlfriend, Michael is in no position to begin playing the field again, especially on the sly. But Kim's sexiness and her immaturity call to him like the Pied Piper did to the little kids. He doesn't try very hard to resist her spell, so, of course, he does things that he ends up regretting.
The dialog is richly filled with wisdom and humor. One character reflects on how women will claim to be on a diet, while their purses look like they've been trick-or-treating. Jenna's parents have their marital meltdown in front of us in their bedroom. Feeling that her husband is emotionally dead, the mother asks, "What would you do if I die?" Finding that an easy question to answer, he quickly replies, "Iron my dark suit," causing his wife to explode like a volcano.
The romances between Michael and both of his girlfriends are completely genuine and their chemistry is palpable. The script makes Kim out to be just a bit of a stalker but not too much.
Jenna's father, who hasn't been particularly successful with his own marriage, does provide several doses of very adept advice. When Michael explains how much he loves Jenna, arguing that the intensity of his love should win her back, her father warns that Michael's feelings are unimportant. "What you feel only matters to you," he tells Michael. "What you do matters to the ones you love." Finally, the simplest and best advice comes when her father tells him, "You can't fail if you don't give up."
And the movie itself never fails. Even when it turns more serious and poignant in the last act, it keeps its strong momentum going. The net result of this high energy picture is that it ends up feeling almost a half hour shorter than its actual running length of a traditional hour and three quarters.
THE LAST KISS runs 1:45. It is rated R for "sexuality, nudity and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
The film is playing nationwide now in the United States. In the Silicon Valley, it is showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.
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