September 18, 2006

The Last Kiss

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Frank Sinatra would have you believe that “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage,” but Tony Goldwyn’s The Last Kiss attempts to contend otherwise. The word “attempt” slips in there because the movie itself is so erratic that it can’t really get any point across at all.
Zach Braff’s character, Michael, opens with some mention of how ironic it is that he’s driving a Prius, another unsatisfyingly trite suggestion. He starts narrating, but that peters off as the movie progresses. Why? No one knows exactly. You begin to understand based on his inconsistent narration that he’s having some sort of 30-Years-Old-Life-Crisis, but it only takes about seven minutes for Rachel Bilson’s character, Kim, to not-so-subtly shove this point into your face. And just like the narration, Bilson’s character degenerates, starting off as an intriguingly beautiful and witty wedding attendee to a stereotypical drunk college girl, pathetic in her attempts to snag Michael.

While Braff is regarded highly for his work on selecting the Scrubs soundtracks and the ubiquitous Garden State mix, which, along with The OC, mixes ushered into the mainstream the new indie musical scene, The Last Kiss has a disappointingly predictable soundtrack. The movie opens with Snow Patrol’s “Chocolate,” a song whose lyrics pretty much sum up the movie’s entire plot. The first words uttered in the film are Gary Lightbody’s vocals, “This could be the very minute/I’m aware I’m alive/All these places feel like home/With a name I’d never chosen/I can make my first steps/As a child of 25.” There’s something to be said for subtlety in music choice for films, so that the audience feels a certain way without knowing exactly why. The music coordinator clearly did not find this approach adequate and instead prefers the what-the-band-is-singing-is-what-the-characters-are-feeling-exactly method. The musical accompaniment to Braff’s getting kicked out of his house by Jacinda Barrett is “Warning Sign” by Coldplay. Simply shocking!

A major issue with this movie’s plot is that it is supposed to show the points of view of many different characters in diverse situations, but all feeling the same sort of malaise in the current states of their lives. In a two-hour movie, however, it’s near impossible to adequately develop characters if each one only gets to tell their story for two minutes at a time. Because of this, characters turn into caricatures and nobody seems real.

Casey Affleck’s character, Chris, is having trouble getting along with his wife. In theory, this aspect of the plot seems plausible, but the wife is onscreen for maybe five minutes total in the whole film, and she is consistently vilified and always comes off as a purely malevolent demon instead of a frustrated new mom. Affleck himself, however, is one of the few gems of this picture and his acting job is superb.

The Last Kiss never really helps the audience decide how to feel about Michael. Obviously everyone wants to love Zach Braff after seeing his comic flair in Scrubs and poignant performance in Garden State, but his character in this picture never really gets the audience emotionally involved. If anything, you just become indifferent to him. He seems to be a stand-up guy, but then he semi-pursues a college coed right after his girlfriend reveals she is pregnant, which prompts him to atone.
It’s hard to tell whether the lack of passion this storyline evokes from me is a result of Braff’s unmoving performance or the lackluster screenplay from normally-dependable Paul Haggis of Million Dollar Baby and Crash acclaim. Either way, these two should have been a one-two punch for the film, and instead they put forth a mediocre two-hour canvassing of all the problems a 30-year-old might possibly encounter in his love life.

It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure instead of an exploration of the human social experience, which neither makes a classic film nor a good accompaniment to popcorn and Junior Mints.