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flick pick | The Last Kiss 2006
Directed by: Tony Goldwyn
Written by: Paul Haggis (screenplay), Gabrielle Muccino (“L’Ultimo Baccio”)
Starring: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson, Tom Wilkinson, Blythe Danner, Casey Affleck
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama
something: quintessentially quasi-adult
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor (watchability): /5 

Plot synopsis Ever since he was a kid, Michael’s dreamed about what his life might look like when he was all grown-up: he’d have a good job, be surrounded by great friends who he’d known for ages, fall in love with an amazing girl who loved him back. Now, at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Michael has to admit his life has fallen perfectly into place: he has a cool career as an architect and a core group of buddies who are there for each other through thick and thin. And he’s living with lovely, funny Jenna, who even his friends describe as the perfect woman (“She’s beautiful, and she’s like a guy!”) Still, when Jenna learns she’s unexpectedly pregnant, Michael finds himself thrown for a loop by the news. On the outside, he’s all cool: he says exactly the right things, tells Jenna how much he loves her, and acts as excited about the baby as she is. But inside, the freak-out hits: his impending fatherhood feels like the final good-bye to youth, and the endless opportunities that being young and carefree implies. At a friend’s wedding, he meets an intriguing brunette named Kim. She’s a very fetching and rather young college junior who makes her interests in Michael clear from the get-go; in short, she’s exactly the temptation he doesn’t need when he’s in the midst of this commitment crisis. Meanwhile, as Michael struggles to deal with the increasing sense of panic he feels regarding where things are heading with Jenna, and whether to pursue this tantalizing new possibility, it turns out he’s not the only one at a relationship crossroads. Jenna’s Mom moves out on her Dad after a 30-year-long marriage, while Michael’s best friend Chris is finally coming to terms with the fact that he and his wife’s constant shouting matches aren’t getting any better, and that it’s not only bad for his own sanity, but ultimately for his young son as well.

Review Mainstream American movies have a tendency to render the world in black and white. There are good people and bad people, good relationships and bad relationships; the hero of a movie is almost always on the side of good, and in a relationship-centric movie, good relationships must end up in a happily-ever-after place, while bad relationships must go buh-bye. This is all very feel-good nice, reassuring us that the world is a fair place in which everyone gets what they deserve, and deserves what they get. But of course, real life doesn’t work like that. Which is why it’s kind of refreshing too to see a movie like The Last Kiss, which doesn’t paint the difficulties of building a long-term relationship in such unrealistically rosy-hued tones. Adapted from an Italian movie, L’Ultimo Bacio, The Last Kiss offers characters and relationships that are decidedly all shades of gray. Protagonist Michael behaves like a total jerk, but even as the movie doesn’t excuse his actions, it refuses to make him out to be a horrible person either; instead, we see that he’s scared and conflicted, and at the core, just kind of immature … all of which make him deeply flawed, but in a way we can recognize as just plain human. Of course, it helps that he’s played by Zach Braff, who has an easy, accessible charm that reminds you of guys you know and like in real life. Braff is aided by great performances to work off of too. Jacinda Barrett does a terrific job of making Jenna a believable character: she’s smart and strong and beautiful, but her initial blindness to what’s going on with Michael is partly her own fault. She’s a great girl, but she isn’t perfect, which is what makes it so sad when we witness her eventual realization that this relationship she was so sure about, isn’t what she thought it was at all. Meanwhile, Casey Affleck as Chris manages to make you understand how a guy could imagine walking out on his wife and young son, and how that doesn’t necessarily make him a selfish, commitment-phobic bastard. Don’t go into this expecting the quirky-dark comedy of Braff’s Garden State; this is a more dramatic, pensive turn, and one that doesn’t offer up a tidy ending. Which is exactly what makes it interesting: by not offering any overly simplistic answers, you’re left contemplating the big questions for yourself … about what it means to grow up, and what it takes to make a relationship work.—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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