October 09, 2006

MOVIES: The Last Kiss (Tony Goldwyn, 2006)

This must be the glummest romance I've ever seen. Marriage and relationships are doomed to failure, or at the very least, to prolonged periods of misery and turbulence, because people are all too selfish to make any real commitments.

Our hero, such as he is, is Michael (Zach Braff), a 30-ish guy who is engaged to Jenna (Jacinda Barrett); he describes her as the perfect woman. But not perfect enough, apparently, because when perky college student Kim (Rachel Bilson) hits on him at a friend's wedding, he's more than happy to give in to temptation.

And this is not simply a moment of weakness. They meet at the wedding; he goes to campus to flirt with her some more; she asks him to a party -- he has many opportunities to end the flirtation, but he continues it, knowing that it will lead to infidelity, and knowing that Jenna will be devastated by that infidelity.

No one else in the movie has a happy relationship, either. Michael's best buds are all unhappy. Chris (Casey Affleck, giving the movie's best and most honestly emotional performance) is feeling increasingly trapped in his marriage; he'd thought that things would get better when they had a baby, but that's only seemed to make things worse. Izzy (Michael Weston) is still pining for his high school sweetheart, and Kenny (a light and funny Eric Christian Olson) thinks he's met the perfect woman, an uninhibited sexual dynamo, until she wants him to meet her parents.

Do things get better with time? Nope. Meet Jenna's parents, Stephen (Tom Wilkinson) and Anna (Blythe Danner, chewing the scenery in embarassing fashion). He's a monosyllabic, unemotional, cold fish; she's a raging drama queen who stomps out of the house because he doesn't give her the attention she demands.

As Michael, Braff is dull and whiny; Barrett's Jenna is a fountain of emotional turbulence (having learned her mother's lessons very well, it seems). We can't for a second imagine that they'd ever be happy together, and the movie's conclusion -- an ostensibly grand, romantic gesture that's closer to stalking -- is painful to watch.

Big disappointment.

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