Is this really what people my age are like? Are they as grimly dull and mopey as the characters in The Last Kiss, the movie that takes the shine off Zach Braff’s Garden State? The film follows a quartet of morose motherfuckers who are having some kind of 2/5ths life crisis about their various relationships. And we can really feel it – they’re the kind of attractive, fairly well off young white people who seem to have all the bad things happen to them. Gosh, I know your house was destroyed in Katrina and you lost your leg in Iraq, but I’m 30 and don’t know if I’m ready to be a dad!
I’ll be fair – just because there are really terrible things happening in the world doesn’t mean your own little life problems are uninteresting. And it definitely doesn’t mean that these problems don’t deserve a movie; after all cinema is the art of the masses, and a film that addresses issues that we all face as human beings is the kind of film I like to see. The problem is that The Last Kiss, which is based on an Italian film from a couple of years back, has a screenplay by Paul Haggis. You know, the guy who brought us Crash. So what that means is that The Last Kiss is filled with moments and revelations that are meant to be profound but are in fact completely banal. Everybody is racist! You have to work really hard to keep a relationship going! Next year, look for Haggis’ next Oscar movie, where he teaches us all the moving lesson that when you eat food it eventually turns into poop.
Zach Braff has been dating Jacinda Barrett for three years; they’ve just discovered she’s a few weeks pregnant. His friend Izzy has recently been dumped by his girlfriend and has suffered what appears to be a complete psychotic break – he’s uncomfortable to watch, and there was a point where I thought he was about to begin a killing spree (which would have vastly improved this film). Casey Affleck plays another friend who can’t stand the fact that his wife is having a hard time dealing with their newborn. I think Casey may have one of the least sympathy-earning demeanors in the film business, and this role doesn’t help. I wanted to curb his character at points. Finally, Gunter from Beerfest is the requisite bachelor buddy who has lots of sex and spends lots of time naked and looks like he’s about to go audition for the role of Roger in the Wisconsin road show of Rent. He’s the best character in the movie because he complains the least, and when we see him it’s often in a sex scene involved a fairly hot naked lady.
These four idiots go to a wedding together, which serves as the lazy screenwriter’s way of setting off the stories. Braff meets Rachel Bilson, a college sophomore who is unbelievably attracted to him. He begins a small affair with her, and when Jacinda Barrett finds out she flips. Meanwhile, other shit happens to the rest of the cast.
Also trapped in this world of overwrought nonsense is Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson, playing Barrett’s parents who are also going through their own crisis. Danner has been cheating with Harold Ramis (who shows up for about five minutes and looks as amused as his own appearance here as I did. He plays a professor, and if he was teaching a class in spores, molds and fungus I may have been tempted to give this film a 10 out of 10); enraged by Wilkinson’s emotional detachment she tells him about the affair and leaves, just to get a reaction. When these two actors are onscreen the movie veers quite close to being watchable, but soon enough the action cuts back to Braff and friends and their self-absorbed adventures scored to a soundtrack of second rate whiny white boy music.
It’s touching to see Braff try to stretch his acting muscles, but in the way that it’s touching to see three legged dog hopping around. You’re like, ‘Keep trying, Buster!’ but nobody expects him to really keep up with the other pups at the dog run. Braff really, really wants to do drama, and he signifies that by often moodily staring into the distance, but he doesn’t have the chops – or, frankly, the right kind of looks. His rubbery face is all comedic – for it. I like Braff in Scrubs a lot, and I genuinely loved Garden State, but by the end of The Last Kiss I found myself wanting to give him an atomic wedgie. Not because his character is unlikable – he is, and that’s one of the few good things about the film, see the next paragraph for more – but because Braff is so fucking annoying.
The one redeeming feature of The Last Kiss is that it’s not afraid to make Braff a complete dick. Unfortunately it goes way overboard – he’s a boring dick from frame one, and then he goes and gets it on with Bilson’s character, who besides being hot has zero going for her. If Braff had been previously established as likable we would be angry with him for his indiscretion, but understanding. But because he’s a fucking yuppie douche I couldn’t wait for him to get caught.
As trite and awful as I’m sure Haggis’ original script was, The Last Kiss was apparently tinkered with by Braff himself. I’m going to guess that the film’s final, grand romantic gesture was inserted by the Scrub himself. In the big, trying to be as good as the boom box over the head scene from Say Anything, Braff sits on a porch. For two or three days. It’s stultifyingly uncinematic and very long. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t cloyingly obvious that the porch sit would end up being just the thing Braff needed to do to win back his lady love. The whole boring scene is The Last Kiss in a nutshell, a fractal reflection of this glum piece of nonsense.