‘Last Kiss’ tackles tough relationship decisions | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Last Kiss’ tackles tough relationship decisions

Howie Nave
Jonathan Wenk / Paramount Pictures / Kim (Rachel Bilson) and Michael (Zach Braff) struggle to adapt to adulthood in "The Last Kiss."

Zach Braff is the kind of guy women want to take home to meet the folks. He’s the guy next door. He’s the guy with the “puppy-dog eyes” who can do no wrong. His down-to-earth, real-life persona paralleled his character in his movie “Garden State,” which he wrote, directed and starred in. (And, yes, it was loosely based on his own existence, involving his interaction with his family and friends, and that movie played well and did very good at the box office.)

In short, Zach comes across as an easy-going guy with very little baggage. So what is he doing in this flick, “The Last Kiss,” that makes you want slap him?

Zach plays Michael, a man on the cusp of his 30th birthday who questions the decisions that have taken him up to this milestone, reflecting on what path his life should go. It doesn’t help that his girlfriend, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), is pregnant with his child. Those kinds of “decisions” sort of force one into mapping out what one should do, and in a hurry, because a family is about to be formed. They’re in love and she wants to buy a house, which, of course, makes Michael question what his next decision should be. His self-esteem isn’t exactly flying off the charts, but he has the love of a good woman who adores him and a family that likes her.

So what does he do? Yep. He is going to blow the whole thing by deciding that now is a good time to sow his oats, and with a much younger woman. The woman in this case is the very hot 18-year-old coed, Kim (Rachel Bilson of “The OC”). They’re just friends, of course. Yeah, right. You can see the spiral starting to happen, and not in an upward direction.

The movie gains momentum from its all-star supporting cast, which includes remarkable performances by Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson as Jenna’s parents, who are grappling with the realization that their love fire isn’t burning like it used to as they come to terms that their marriage has flatlined. Clear! The storyline with these two veteran actors is worth the price of admission alone.

Add to that Michael’s friends (Casey Affleck, Michael Weston and Eric Christian Olsen) and their stories and, well, you get a multifaceted motion picture (try saying that four times real fast) that works on several levels and is smart.

“The Last Kiss” doesn’t glorify romance, but instead takes on a journey involving three generations of “real” people and how they work (or don’t) at making what they have a lasting love. I will say this, though. You will be surprised at how the movie concludes, and it makes you rethink whom you have in your life and how you should cherish that person.

Director Tony Goldwyn does a fantastic job here, examining love at different stages and what some people do when they are confused, not thinking coherently with their head (guys, take notice), but rather acting recklessly and impulsively with their heart. Why was I able to relate so strongly to this picture, hmmmmmm? Live and learn, I guess.

Zach Braff has come a long way since “Garden State” (and also his role as Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian from TV’s “Scrubs”), and this movie really allows us to see him as more than just a one-dimensional character on the surface, but rather as a person on the edge who knows he has a good thing, yet still sacrifices that for a belief that the grass will remain greener on the other side. It’s a more mature role for him and, under the direction of Goldwyn, he really comes into his own. In fact, Braff was able to tweak some of the script to make his character more believable, but also make him accessible even though he is a jerk at what he’s doing.

Same, too, goes for his supporting cast, especially Casey Affleck, who has finally risen out of the shadow of his more-famous brother, Ben. Here we see him in his own spotlight, not upstaging the other characters but funny enough to release some of the tensions that permeate through “The Last Kiss.”

The movie also has a killer score, with original music by Michael Penn, that just adds to the overall likeability to this late-summer movie. Not just a great date flick, but one to see with a loved one you’ve had for years, “The Last Kiss” reminds us that love is never easy to maintain, even though it sure seemed like it in the beginning stages, didn’t it?

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8.

Keepin’ it Reel

Now playing: “The Last Kiss”

Starring: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Casey Affleck, Rachel Bilson, Michael Weston, Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson and Eric Christian Olsen

Directed by: Tony Goldwyn

Rated: R for sexuality, nudity and language

Length: 110 minutes

Howie gives it: 4.5 out of 5 bagels

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