Director: Tony Goldwyn
Starring: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson
‘What Is This, Some Sort Of Sappy Love Story For Women?!…I Think Not…’
Remade/Reworked from the 2001 film ‘Ultimo Bacio, L’, written and directed by award winner Gabriele Muccino (‘Seven Pounds’, ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’), ‘The Last Kiss’ shows us the story of ‘Michael’ (Zach Braff), and his friends, of how their lives progress and any dilemmas faced ahead. ‘Michael’ is in a committed relationship with ‘Jenna’ (Jacinda Barrett), they’ve been together for 3 years and are about to have a baby, in an influx of confusion over the way his life has planned out, fate delivers ‘Kim’ (Rachel Bilson) to ‘Michael’, and impulses start developing within him. Soon and sure enough, implications arise as she tries to seduce him.
Now, clearly, as the title and brief synopsis suggest, the first impressions of this film through text make it sound like some ‘smultchzy’, weepy, emotional film aimed at women and sensitive males in which people love, have problems, love again and thus; happy ending. But this simply is not the case with this film, with such pre-conceptions it becomes easy for expectations to be exceeded rather soon.
Initially this film seems like nothing special, we have some rapidly established characters, yet with minimal connection to the audience. This is fine, and you’d expect this to develop throughout the film; but it seems as if this doesn’t develop quickly enough. After being briefly introduced to our characters and the central plot, we are at a wedding, and it is here where ‘Michael’ meets ‘Kim’.
The immediate chemistry between Braff and Bilson seemed to be not that disparate to the chemistry displayed between Braff and Natalie Portman in the highly acclaimed film ‘Garden State’, this is slightly disappointing, but only to those who have seen the film in question. This chemistry, however, successfully veers off into something more unique and intriguing as the film goes on.
Also, in its opening scenes, there is nothing that shouts “I am great!” There are few nice shots and it’s generally aesthetically ordinary. Much of the acting is fairly quotidian with the exception of a handful of cast members, and the script promptly seems quite plain with some nice bits of dialogue here and there. Yet with all these obvious flaws outlined very early on, there is still something quite captivating about this film, and at first thought, it’s hard to pin-point exactly what it is.
As mentioned, there is much to be desired of the acting; all the cast performed their roles very well, but there always felt like there was something missing in their performance. In particular, Rachel Bilson (‘The O.C.’), who seems somewhat unconvincing at times.
Braff gives a fantastic performance however, especially in some heavy scenes nearer the end of the film where he irrevocably portrays his emotions and facial expressions.
Casey Affleck is quite surprising too, having not seen him in anything before myself, I expected him to be on par with his brother Ben Affleck in terms of acting ability. Casey is convincing in his role, he doesn’t quite surmount his brother, but he definitely shows some promise, (despite his peculiarly effeminate voice.)
One of the films underlying themes is how we treat our dreams and aspirations, as well as how we deal with the common dilemmas of modern day civilisation. It makes a point of arguing what is worth fighting for and why, as well as displaying the options of running away. You don’t necessarily learn from these points, but for certain people it’s not impossible to assume that it could put some viewers’ individual real-life problems into some form of perspective in terms of how they’re dealing with them. This is a great aspect, be it intentional or fluke.
Though despite this, some character actions and behavioural traits don’t seem to make complete sense. For example, ‘Kim’ knows that ‘Michael’ is in a committed relationship, yet she tries to seduce him anyway, and personally I can’t comprehend why you would try to aide and incur the self sabotage of someone’s relationship for personal gain. This made ‘Kim’ a mystery, and gives a very ambivalent feeling towards her, being that you enjoy aspects of her character, yet at the same time dislike her actions.
This goes for most characters though; there is a great deal of ambivalence and even contempt for a lot of the cast, and in the films early moments it’s hard to see why. As the film goes on, or more specifically, near the end, you realise something about the characters, and the artistic intentions with the characters involved. Throughout the film the contempt and ambivalence for the characters is consistent, assumedly this would be a bad thing, but this is in fact not a mistake. The only reason this is felt is because the mind expects to have a specified emotional attachment towards each of the characters dictated to it by the film. But this is one of those surprising elements; the film does not care whether you like the characters or not, it has a complete disregard for your personal feelings on how you wish the events to turn out as well as how you desire the characters to behave. The film basically says “Here is a story for you, but I don’t care if you like it or not”, the reason for this, is because every single character, good performance or not, is just incredibly human. Every character has a certain level of good qualities as well as a great deal of flaws, none of the characters are perfect, and none of them claim to be. This realisation makes any discontentment towards the characters vanish.
In this instance, the film fantastically avoids being predictable, as well as being some kind of ‘feel good’ escapist film to enjoy every once in a while on a weekend afternoon. The film convincingly tells a story of human life, and common modern social behaviour in adulthood.
This overall makes for a very surprising film, and at the end you’re left feeling very satisfied, and the feeling that you greatly enjoyed the movie. Even though the acting and cinematography leave much to the imagination at times, the films avoidance of escapism and its unpredictability just make this film rather unique and highly enjoyable.
It may require you stick with it however, but either way, 8 out of 10 for originality!