The Last Kiss has a problem. It's not a romantic comedy at all. If you're heading out to see it, that's probably what you're expecting. You're going to be horribly disappointed. It's not even a chick flick really. Instead, this is a movie for a very specific audience. A movie for guys of a certain type, at a certain age, at a certain point in their lives. This is a movie for me. The rest of you are going to be left out in the cold.
Paul Haggis's script is the story of Michael (Zach Braff) and his group of friends as they approach turning 30. Once upon a time people waited until 40 or 50 to have their mid-life crises, but as the film rightly points out, we're moving so fast and trying so hard to grab on to something these days, our crises tend to come early. Maybe it's 30, maybe it's in your mid-20s. For these guys, hovering around 29, it's right now.
Their situations are different, but the basic problem Michael and his buddies are grappling with is the same. They're just not ready to give up.
Michael is living with Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), the perfect girl. She's pregnant, he loves her, he's happy, and yet he's also worried. He tells her he feels great about everything, because what else are you going to tell your pregnant girlfriend? But he isn't. He's scared. He looks out on a life where from now on everything is going to be the same. That terrifies him.
His friends face the same fear. Chris (Casey Affleck) is married and already has his first kid. His wife is a wreck and he's tired of hearing what a piece of crap he is. Kenny is single, tending bar, and banging a different girl every night. But he's almost 30 and knows that even though he thinks he has the perfect life, it can't go on forever. Izzy has been dumped by the girl he's been in love with from high school. Just when he thought he'd be settling in, suddenly he finds himself starting over and realizes he hasn't done anything with his life.
Look, it probably sounds like the movie's nothing but a ball of angst, and maybe it is, but it's real angst. The Last Kiss takes a look at what real relationships and real people are like and tries to put it up on screen. The characters in The Last Kiss are more than two-dimensional mockups of expected Hollywood personalities. They're living, breathing, struggling people who face every decision with indecision and doubt. While the men struggle, the women in their lives have started nesting, almost unable to understand why their guys seem so restless.
Offsetting the angst of Michael and his friends on the precipice of maturity are Jenna's parents. Jenna's Dad is now a settled in father, while it's her mother who finds herself facing the same crisis Michael and his buddies do. She's bored, and in her boredom you see Jenna's future.
Braff continues to shine as a sardonic and sensitive everyman. He's real on screen, a guy who wants to be perfect but finds himself torn between what he wants to be and what he actually could be. The rest of the cast is a perfect complement. Casey Affleck delivers a delicate, layered performance as Chris, Blythe Danner is great as Jenna's conflicted mother. In a small, quiet role Tom Wilkinson steals scenes by saying everything while saying nothing.
For a lot of people, this movie will not work. Shallow, beer-swilling idiots will be quick to dismiss its characters as selfish or cold. These people are looking for Hollywood's grand romantic gestures, these are the people who've bought into the decades of unrealistic, noble expectations Hollywood's been grinding into our heads. Sorry folks, real people and real relationships don't work like that. There's depth here that many may not be willing and able to understand.
Hardcore romantics and women with princess dreams in particular may have a hard time accepting it. There's no Prince Charming here. The film portrays men entering into committed relationships as frightened animals, wary of being trapped but at the same time determined to do the right thing. When Michael's girlfriend suggests they discuss what their fears are about their future, Michael considers telling her what he's thinking... until she tells him her worst fear is how soon they'll be able to get a house. He reels. She can't handle what's going on in his head, because what's going on in hers is everything that scares him shitless. It's not easy to accept that most times, that's the way men really are. Michael isn't a bad guy, he's just a real guy. Hey, it's our own fault. As the men in this movie do, guys tell you what you want to hear rather than what they really feel. Men rarely tell women other what they're really thinking because in the end, we're afraid you probably can't handle it. The Last Kiss handles it, and if you're the right person at the right time, then it's the kind of movie that might change your life. For the rest of you, go watch something else.
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