The Last Kiss (2006) Movie Review
The catchy pop ballads found on the soundtrack for Tony Goldwyn's The Last Kiss will break your heart in two. The movie these songs support only wishes it could make such a claim.
Back to the music for a minute. Coldplay, Cary Brothers, Fiona Apple, Snow Patrol, and a smattering of other fashionable artists - each handpicked by leading man Zach Braff - croon (and sometimes whine) about infidelity, loss, and life-changing mistakes that target the love of your life. Sample lyrics include, "She's moving on... without you." Sentiments rarely deviate from this norm. It's a nice place to wallow on a rainy afternoon.
Braff worked similar musical magic for his directorial debut Garden State. His ear for stirring, soulful melodies earned him a Best Compilation Soundtrack for a Motion Picture Grammy award. But where Braff's Garden mix tape enhanced his quirky and personal little comedy, this new song collection can't lift Goldwyn's somber material from the doldrums.
Kiss remakes L'ultimo bacio, an obscure Italian drama about a twentysomething male who confronts a grass-is-always-greener quandary. Braff plays Michael, a likeable guy tentatively entering adulthood but unwilling to relinquish his adolescent freedom. He starts to question his ready-made future once he learns his girlfriend, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), is pregnant. Bigger problems arise when Michael attracts the eye of sexy college minx Kim (worthy temptress Rachel Bilson), who comes on strong at the wedding reception of a mutual friend.
To have such problems, right? Michael's love triangle seems quaint when compared to the troubles of his friends and family. Jenna's mother (Blythe Danner) has fallen out of love with her placid but faithful husband (Tom Wilkinson) and wants to start fresh with someone else. Michael's friends are equally bothered. Chris (Casey Affleck) can't cope with the demands of being a new father. Izzy (Michael Weston) pines for his ex (Marley Shelton) as he contemplates a road trip. And sexual predator Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) struggles to remember the names of the girls that parade through his bedroom.
Vastly overrated Oscar-winner Paul Haggis (Crash) pens the Kiss adaptation but doesn't understand these characters, leaving it up to the actors to flesh out their poorly written roles. Haggis wants to bring everything back to Michael, so he half-develops these fringe players and tacks on forced resolutions to conflicts we never once invested in.
The meat of the movie remains with Michael and Jenna, so Braff and Barrett bring boxing gloves. Michael represents a variation of the emotional autopilot that Braff portrayed in Garden State. Where that character drifted through an unsatisfied life hindered by obstacles, this protagonist has disconnected because things are going too well. The actor is mundane when questioning his future and fiery when the film gets around to the inevitable screaming matches between mates.
Things get depressing in Kiss. To its credit, the character arc that Michael and Jenna follow stays brutally honest. It just results in heaps of sadness for them and, in turn, us. At least we have to perfect soundtrack to match our mood.