DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
LAST KISS, THE (director: Tony Goldwyn; screenwriters: Paul Haggis/based on L'ultmo bacio by Gabriele Muccino; cinematographer: Tom Stern; editor: Lisa Zeno Churgin; music: Michael Penn; cast: Zach Braff (Michael), Jacinda Barrett (Jenna), Casey Affleck (Chris), Rachel Bilson (Kim), Michael Weston (Izzy), Blythe Danner (Anna), Tom Wilkinson (Stephen), Eric Christian Olsen (Kenny), Cindy Sampson (Danielle), Marley Shelton (Arianna), Lauren Lee Smith (Lisa), David Rigby (University Professor); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tom Rosenberg/Gary Lucchesi/Andre Lamal/Marcus Viscidi; Paramount Pictures; 2006)

 
"The youthful leads all had a limited range of emotions."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A tepid Hollywood remake of Gabriele Muccino's popular Italian romantic comedy L'Ultimo Bacio (2001); it's poorly adapted by Paul Haggis ("Crash"/"Million Dollar Baby") and unimaginatively directed by actor-turned-director Tony Goldwyn ("A Walk on the Moon"). This dreary lighthearted fare turns heavy in the third act bringing on messages about relationship that didn't mean much to me since the dramatics in the first two parts bored me silly watching a group of twentysomethings suffering from arrested development and angst over growing up; especially when I thought they were all self-centered assholes. It was mostly like a tired and all too familiar TV sitcom lathered up with a half hour worth of material, but stretched into a feature film by fillers and subplots to a torturous length of 115 minutes. But more terrible than its slight story was how disheartening it was tossing around pessimism and overlapping it with optimism, as it tried to cover all bases but none with conviction. The youthful leads all had a limited range of emotions and their melodramatic rants seemed more like they were desperate thesps trying to find a note to deliver about their character but couldn't do it seamlessly. There was an occasional bright moment, but that seemed so out of place I felt it belonged in another film.

It's set in Madison, Wisconsin, where the main character is a sullen-looking geek 29-year-old architect named Michael (Zach Braff), who seemingly is sitting on top of the world with a great job, a fancy hybrid car, three loyal buddies and his perfect live-in pregnant girlfriend Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) of three years--someone who is smart, pretty and of good character. But privately they have a different view of their relationship. He's antsy, afraid of growing up and getting hitched (he tells himself that marriage and a child will end the “surprising” part of his life), while she's hoping to marry him but doesn't want to scare him off by being too forward about it. Michael's cold feet about responsibility is the arc of the narrative's crisis and sets the wheels in motion for what follows. At a wedding ceremony of one of Michael's buddies, he's seduced by a cute-looking but callow 19-year-old coed named Kim (Rachel Bilson). When on a date, he gets caught in a lie and an unforgiving Jenna gives him the boot until he realizes she's the babe for him and camps out on her porch until she relents.

In this very busy story, we trace the problems Michael has as being similar to what his immature pals (Lothario bartender named Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen), unhappily married family man named Chris (Casey Affleck) and a loser still living with his parents named Izzy (Michael Weston)) are going through and as a counterpoint there's Jenna's decent upstanding tolerant folks, Stephen (Tom Wilkinson) and Anna (Blythe Danner), who have been long married but all of a sudden their marriage is threatened (in a completely uncalled for and embarrassing scene Anna is made to look like a weirdo when she unceremoniously tells hubby in front of his patient that she wants a divorce and has fucked another man). Stephen, a witty easy-going professional therapist, tries to survive that storm and, as the only father figure in the story, offers his future-son-in-law some pat fatherly advice and gentle condemnations of his conduct. There wasn't anything wrong with what the bland Stephen said, but everything about this film seemed so self-important and full of beans that even that sensible scene (the best one in the film) sounded like a fart in the wind. Since Jenna's folks are the only serious and steadfast adults allowed into the narrative, their liberalism and non-judgmental stance (trying to understand how Michael's fear caused him to be such an asshole) are guiding tenets taken as examples for the young bloods to follow. But they don't seem to have any answers since their marriage problems have been exposed and that they were for a long time going through the motions of looking like they were in a happy marriage to the outsider when they were anything but happy. I don't know what message the filmmaker wants us to take away, but it seems evident that the film was so open-ended in its tolerance for all its dull and irritating characters that any message the viewer wants it to have would work--the film just had no heart to say something  meaningful or biting.
 
REVIEWED ON 9/16/2006        GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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