Michael (Zach Braff) and his friends (including Casey Affleck) are approaching the age of 30, and they can't quit seem to find their comfort zone in life or love. Blessed with Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), his loving, newly pregnant girlfriend, Michael is tempted to cheat when a younger college student (Rachel Bilson, in a fine film debut) falls for him, leaving Michael in a torturous position: either satisfy his desires or continue with his seemingly claustrophobic, domesticated future.
"The Last Kiss" is a picture about bad choices, and that's exactly why it should be celebrated. This is an upsettingly human film about real, self-centered people fearing they're in relationship trouble and desperate to hit the eject button. It doesn't get sentimental; it doesn't offer all that much hope or likeable characters; it doesn't feature people always making the right choice. "Kiss" is about the sideways moments in life when impulses take over rationale. It's a movie, but it feels authentic.
In some respects "Kiss" is the natural extension of Zach Braff's directorial debut: the emo-hit, "Garden State." "Kiss" serves up another plate of adult male ennui, punctuated with an iPod-driven soundtrack, and a script searching the sometimes crummy depths of the human heart. Director Tony Goldwyn makes like a Braff Jr. and almost mimes "State" completely, but the story is stronger (this is a remake of a mediocre 2001 Italian film), and Goldwyn doesn't allow artifice to swallow the mood. He's an actor's director, and that is what "Kiss" requires to make a deep impression.
Because this is a rogues gallery of non-committal men and their shallow concept of heartache, Goldwyn uses a marvelous cast to assume these undesirable positions. Not all of the supporting staff get their day in the sun, but gentle work by Casey Affleck as a depressed new father makes up for his lack of screentime. The lead performances by Braff and Barrett are even better, as both actors find the reality of the moment in place of heading to habitual melodrama.
It's Blythe Danner as Jenna's imploding, lovesick mother who really sells the nuance of melancholy in the film. She's the open wound the picture needs, and her acting allows the rest of the film to sleep easily knowing that someone is making sure to embody a type of interior pain that doesn't wash away with a Coldplay tune.
Inherently, "Kiss" touches on some very polarizing relationship subjects. This is not a date movie in the classic sense, but it addresses many issues that play out in daily life. Goldwyn and screenwriter Paul Haggis ("Crash," "Million Dollar Baby") refuse to cave to formula, and they allow these character to screw up their lives, or in the case of some, to take their screwed up lives back. I treasure the sense of honesty depicted here; not everyone is allowed a fairy tale ending to their story, and some are even left with a big fat question mark, as it should be.
"Last Kiss" is an unexpectedly challenging and thought-provoking piece of filmmaking. Certainly the "Garden State" overtones might cause some to dismiss it, but I've rarely found a film that took temptation and matrimonial anxiety so seriously and so selfishly.
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