Friday, September 22, 2006

The Last Kiss

In the future, I think I will go into movies with a cooler head, a more realistic approach, and not as many expectations. I heard a bunch about The Last Kiss, and it looked like a very smart drama with deep characters, and if not approaching American Beauty status, at least on par with Closer and the like. After Garden State, I leap at the chance to see anything Zach Braff is involved with, and after Crash, Paul Haggis looks like a god. Knowing all these things, The Last Kiss just proves that a movie definitely can add up to much less than the sum of its parts.

Looking at all the elements individually and objectively, the movie is pretty good. The acting was top-notch from everyone in the cast. It was well-shot, with no dramatic cinema tricks to make you feel like you were being jerked around. The writing was excellent as far as plot flow and delivery went. All in all, everything was in place for a pretty good movie, and it was. The problem lies in the fact that I was expecting a great movie.

The plot, while effectively delivered and smartly played out, was just so achingly standard. At the center is a 29 year-old with a pregnant girlfriend, a good job, and solid friendships who is quietly and slowly freaking out. He meets a young vixen who shakes his world up and challenges his morality, and he very clumsily ventures down the much-trod path of infidelity. No matter how well it’s presented, we have heard this story about a million times before. The Last Kiss, despite good intentions, has nothing new to offer. The plot doesn’t do anything that we couldn’t see coming from 6,000 miles away.

There are so many opportunities for the movie to turn around and do something that is unexpected, and it wastes every single one. The guy meets a girl. He considers cheating with her. He asks his friends to lie for him. His girlfriend finds out. She reacts badly. He tries to lie to her. He sleeps with the girl he cheated with. When he tries to reconcile with his girlfriend, she throws him out of the house. Yadda yadda yadda.

Like I said, the acting is extraordinary here. Everyone in it gives a great performance, and they have a script they can really sink their teeth into. Zach Braff, actually, is the least stellar one in the film, as he plays his character exactly like his one in Garden State, just a little less depressed. Rachel Bilson is incredibly sweet as the vixen who is ten years younger than the hero. Her character is the most interesting, because though she fills the role of temptress to the point of being a walking cliché, she does it completely not of her own volition. Everything she does is exactly what a not-very-bright college girl her age would do, one who doesn’t have much experience in the real world but is expected to live in it. To her character’s credit, she doesn’t know she’s a home-wrecker, and when she finds out, she reacts with the appropriate amount of disgust for both herself and the guy who put her in that position. And she plays it to perfection with complete believability. Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner both give award-worthy performances in pretty standard roles, and really make lemonade out of lemons. Jacinda Barrett (yes, the girl from TV’s The Real World back in ’95) is very endearing as the pregnant girlfriend, if her actions are completely predictable. Even the supporting performances, by the likes of Casey Affleck, Michael Weston, and Eric Christian Olsen, are also pitch-perfect. Too bad they’re stuck in a movie with no originality whatsoever.

The Last Kiss’s common-as-dirt premise and excess of sex and nudity are redeemed by the great script and phenomenal performances, but they only take it so far. The movie got about 10 points lower on the 22 scale than I thought it would before I saw it. But I suppose even Paul Haggis can’t be expected to hit it out of the park every time he sets pen to paper.

Iconic lines:
“The world is moving so fast now that we start freaking long before our parents did because we don’t stop to breathe anymore.”
“What you feel only matters to you! It’s what you do to the people you love that counts.”
“Where did you come from and how do I make more of you??!!??”

22 Rating: 3

Particle Man

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