'The Last Kiss'
The original may have worked better, but there are still many good performances
Braff plays Michael, a 29-year-old architect who has no choice but to admit that his life is going well. He has a good job, a nice home and a beautiful and pregnant girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett). Already teetering on the edge of doubt about the prospect of settling down, he encounters temptation in the form of a flirty college student (Bilson), who suggests that his days of wild partying and passion don't need to be over. As if things aren't confusing enough for Michael, everybody around him is in crisis as well, including his girlfriend's parents (Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner), who are going through a mid-life separation.
Gabriele Mucino's celebrated film "L'Ultimo Bacio" was an interesting concoction, a culturally motivated generational story about Italian males in arrested development in which the supposedly central men were almost comic relief to the far more sensitive and sensible women. Although "The Last Kiss" was adapted by recently deified Oscar winner Paul Haggis, this was a paycheck job, as the remake is often a scene-for-scene copy of the original until a slightly different (and less cynical) ending. That's probably why, under Tony Goldwyn's respectful, but utterly uninspired directorial watch, "The Last Kiss" manages to be appealing and thoughtful, but also just a bit embalmed.
"L'Ultimo Bacio" came out of a very specific Italian tradition of representations of young men, the child of Fellini and Monicelli, in which the urban settings and the characters are tied together for both comedic and dramatic purposes. "The Last Kiss" has been transplanted from Florence to Montreal-playing-Wisconsin and it's been rendered generic in the process, minus a line or two of dialogue about a cheese factory. Given that these characters are, in theory, my contemporaries, that nebulousness may explain a frequent lack of connection on my part.
The characters remain vivid and well-acted, although Braff's difficulties turning off his well-honed irony is sometimes a distraction. I may have liked the movie better if Braff had switched roles with the more believably earnest Casey Affleck, who plays a friend who fears that his child has destroyed his marriage. The film's most surprising male performance may come from sitcom vet Eric Christian Olsen, who gives a heart to what could have been a stereotypical wacky himbo character.
The women are uniformly excellent, particularly Barrett, who, with a tricky character, indicates for the first time that I may be able to eventually stop referring to her as "'Real World: London' star Jacinda Barrett." In her first major film role, Bilson doesn't stray far from her "O.C." Summer persona, but her spark remains unmuted on the big screen, which is more than countless other young TV stars can say. Bilson's ability to flesh out a role that's really just an youthful ideal, a sexy aspiration, is admirable.
It almost goes without saying, but Danner classes up every scene she's in, as she and Wilkinson have very meaty parts, despite the film's concentration on the younger generation.
"The Last Kiss" may confuse couples who go in expecting a date movie. It's a dark and largely realistic movie about people who love each other, but still make bad choices, a mixture of melodrama and comedy that probably plays better in Italian.