“The Last Kiss” opened on Sept. 15 to audiences anxiously anticipating another fresh and honest look at the awkward and terrifying transition between adolescence and adulthood. As a genuine fan of the movie “Garden State,” I held such high hopes for Zach Braff’s return to the screen that I may have set myself up for disappointment. An American remake of the 2001 Italian film “L’Ultimo Bacio”, “The Last Kiss” is set in suburban Wisconsin. Michael (Braff) and his girlfriend of three years, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), have just announced that they’re having a baby. Although unmarried, this does not seem to faze anyone, even Jenna’s parents. In reality, Michael is becoming extremely daunted by the fact that there may not be “any surprises left” in his life, even though he’s only 29. Enter Kim (Rachel Bilson), a 21-year-old college student with great, if not excessive, interest in Michael. Perhaps she can be considered a seductive temptress luring Michael down the wrong path, but maybe he’s man enough to make his own decisions, whether they are right or wrong. Whichever the case, he’ll certainly be the one to experience the repercussions.
That story alone may appear to be bland and lifeless, but it is intertwined with the complicated lives of Michael’s friends and Jenna’s parents to give it that extra oomph. In Madison, Wis., everyone you know is having a crisis – or so it seems. The frustration felt by each character with their less-than-inspiring lives is mimicked in the frustration of the viewer by the less-than-inspiring writing and directing. Watching this movie was like eating at a buffet: a whole lot of everything, but not enough of the one thing you really wanted. There are just too many characters and subtexts to be appropriately explored in such a little amount of time.
To their credit, the actors deliver poignant performances that breathe life back into the film. Three of the top billed actors are crossovers from television (Braff from “Scrubs”, Bilson from “The O.C.” and Barrett from “The Real World: London”), so they’re used to developing interesting storylines in a short amount of time. Also, the soundtrack, once again hand-picked by Braff himself, evokes plenty of emotion when the plot just can’t stand on its own. Selections from Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Imogen Heap and plenty of others give depth to an otherwise shallow plot.
While “The Last Kiss” may not equally compare to “Garden State,” it certainly does have its own moments of a perfectly seasoned look at life and growing up. However, these moments could be explored in the comfort of your own home, rather than a movie theatre. My suggestion: buy the soundtrack now and rent the film when it comes out on DVD in a few months. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Like the trailer says “We all make choices. What’s yours?