It’s hard to say bad things about Zach Braff – he’s just so undeniably adorable. However, in “The Last Kiss,” he’s also whiny, self-centered and surprisingly grown-up. This film from Tony Goldwyn is the American adaptation of the Italian romantic comedy “L’Ultimo Bacio,” and as such, it features a lot more melodrama than every romantic comedy Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts did put together. In a nutshell, the film follows a group of four incredibly angsty, hyper-sensitive guys in their mid-thirties whose love lives are in a seemingly permanent flux. Throw in some almost-funny lines, including one about the Prius phenomenon that pretty much falls flat, and just a few moments that actually elicit a real laugh and “The Last Kiss” is a decent romantic comedy that is worth matinee prices but doesn’t quite merit the full cost of a nighttime ticket.
Braff, playing a grown-up version of the thinking girl’s heartthrob that he so perfectly captured in “Garden State,” leads the pack as an architect who cannot decide whether he wants to settle down with his pregnant girlfriend, Jenna (Jacinda Barret), or pursue an affair with a sexy, is slightly off-balance, college student, Kim (Rachel Bilson). In the meantime, Chris (Casey Affleck) is dealing with a newborn and a marriage on the verge of collapse, Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) is bartending and bed-hopping and Izzy (Michael Weston) is trying to get over a devastating break-up.
All in all, the men in this film are pretty much hopeless when it comes to making their love lives work, and throughout the film, they never shut up about it. Sure, they seem a little bit old to be such big cry babies, but their whining is made tolerable by the fact that every single actor turns in a performance so good it transcends the predictable, tiresome words coming out of their mouths. Braff is charming, as usual, although there is something not quite right about hearing him talk as frankly about sex as he does – when he is talking about Barret’s breasts, it comes across as more awkward than sexy. Despite that small flaw, Braff is as likable and believable as he always is, even if he does tend to play the same confused-by-life character in every project he tackles. As the man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Affleck proves that he is truly as good if not – dare I say it – a better actor than his famous sibling. With turns as the laidback sex god and the overwrought emotional wreck, respectively, Olsen and Weston each also pull their weight – and then some.
The women in this movie are also vital in making it a tolerable film. In fact, throughout the movie it almost seems as though the traditional gender roles are reversed – women are the seductresses, the adulteresses and the most seemingly level-headed characters for most of the film – which adds a slightly more interesting dimension to what is otherwise merely a longer version of any decent television melodrama about relationships and the like. Barret, in one of her first really meaty roles on the big screen, turns in a remarkable performance as Braff’s endearing girlfriend. Throughout the film, she consistently manages to be relatable and believable as well as funny, dramatic and sexy. As the doe-eyed college student seductress, Bilson reprises much of the quirky, confident charm that made her a standout on “The O.C.” – with an added obsessive edge that comes across as initially sweet and a little sad, but eventually becomes almost “Fatal Attraction”-esque as the film progresses. Finally, Blythe Danner turns in a performance as Barret’s adulterous mother that takes the best comic elements of her hilarious role as Will’s mom on “Will & Grace” and adds a pathos that is truly touching.
Ultimately, this film is a rollercoaster ride of emotions – even though the twists and turns are often predictable and visible from miles away, they still manage to affect you when you hit them. Sure, the performances are great, the soundtrack is fantastic and the film does have a few moments of real comedy, striking insight and truly heart-wrenching drama. But, ultimately, it is nothing that hasn’t been done and done better before.