The Last Kiss (2006)
Starring: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Casey Affleck, Rachel Bilson, Michael Weston, Eric Christian Olsen, Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson
Directed by: Tony Goldwyn
Zach Braff is working hard in his movie career to be the face of late-twenties ennui. With this movie, and Garden State, he’s building a career by staring blankly into the sad abyss of life, symbolising the listlessness of my generation.
Sadly, I guess I’m out of step with my generation, because I don’t find the future a place of paralysing fear, that leaves me no choice but to make inexplicable decisions to try and ruin my otherwise fantastic life. As a result, I had a hard time tolerating this terrible, terrible movie. Of course, I don’t really need to be able to tolerate terrible movies, so I guess the problem isn’t with me.
I actually enjoyed Garden State, so my problem isn’t that I can’t stand a mopey Zach Braff. My problem is that it didn’t work for this film at all, with him navel gazing his way through a movie in which his character is essentially the bad guy. But they wouldn’t let him be the bad guy, and instead thought we’d find him sympathetic even though his character is given no sympathetic qualities and little to no motivations for his actions. In fact, the movie feels like it was originally conceived as an ensemble piece, and then changed when Braff signed on, giving his character more screen time but no more depth.
The result is a muddled, directionless movie full of half-developed characters who are never given enough time to become interesting or relevant, and a bunch of scenes of personal crisis that fail to involve the audience. Which, I suppose, isn’t all that surprising since the screenplay was adapted by Paul Haggis, who didn’t exactly prove to be a deft portrayer of three dimensional characters in his last ensemble movie. Braff and his buddies (Casey Affleck, Michael Weston, Eric Christian Olsen) come off as insufferable whiners (although, admittedly, less so for Affleck, whose character at least had a legitimate problem). Blythe Danner gives an annoyingly showy performance that is supposed to come off as sympathetic, I suppose, but doesn’t. Rachel Bilson is super-cute as always, but is basically just playing a college-aged Summer Roberts. Jacinda Barrett is somewhat winning as Braff’s suffering fianceé, showing some impressively righteous anger. But her character isn’t developed enough to be truly interesting, and the movie only lets her be either sweet or furious, with no middle ground. She basically only exists in relation to Braff’s character, which is unfortunate, because he’s the least interesting character in the movie.
The movie wasn’t entirely bad. Tom Wilkinson is fairly winning in his character, although you get the distinct impression that the movie wants us to think of him as distant and cold. Me, I was happy that at least one character in the movie wasn’t so crippled by their problems that they had no choice but to whine about them the whole time. I particularly liked his advice about people and their feelings, in that your feelings only matter to you. What matters to others is your actions. Sadly, it was buried in a movie where people only cared about their feelings and their actions were terrible. So his character, Bilson’s hotness, a few good jokes, and a great soundtrack weren’t enough to make watching this movie a good way to spend my time. If I were the late-twenty-year-old male archetype as portrayed by this movie and others like it, I’d probably spend the rest of my month staring off into the middle distance, wondering what I did to deserve such a waste of time.