September 15, 2006

We'd Give Braff the Ultimate Kiss Off


During the summer of 2001, Cinecultist flew to Italy to join our family for a vacation and on the plane, we saw this really bizarre and horrible movie. Completely soap opera-y with a bunch of young, attractive actors all trying to screw each other, yet whining about the pains of fidelity the entire time. We couldn't understand why so many Italians loved this movie. Of course this was the Italian blockbuster, L' Ultimo bacio which Paul Haggis has now adapted into the script for The Last Kiss starring Zach Braff. Apparently, bad source material does not guarantee a good movie any more than a good source does.

When Garden State came out, Cinecultist is not embarrassed to admit we were drawn in by Braff's mopey, indie boy shtick. A good soundtrack and puppy dog eyes are surprisingly effective, even on the jaded CC. But in The Last Kiss, il Braffino has worn out his voice over laden welcome. Hit a certain point in your life and all of this a do about fear of commitment becomes incredibly tired. Especially when Braff's only dramatic acting technique seems to be to get a completely petrified look in Michael's eyes when faced with any complex decisions.

For the American version, Haggis has jettisoned much of the emphasis on Michael's childhood buddies and their romantic hang ups for Braff's performance, hence the harping on our annoyance with him. It's too bad since Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson, who as Michael's girlfriend Jacinda Barrett's parents also have a relationship on the rocks, are each such deft performers. Casey Affleck also isn't half bad, but his lack of screen time, as Michael's married buddy with a kid and also contemplating divorce, seriously cuts into his ability to shine.

Perhaps the biggest problem with The Last Kiss is the naiveté attributed to the two main women characters, Barrett's pregnant girlfriend Jenna and Rachel Bilson's lithe, flirty college student Kim. Just the implication that Michael may have lied and been out for the evening not with a guy friend but with a real live girl sends Jenna completely round the bend. Granted, Michael seems incapable of having a girl as cute as Kim as just a friends but still, how is Jenna to know this? And why doesn't Michael know any girls who aren't his buddies' wives or girlfriends? This seems like a pretty limited circle of influence to have at 30. Then when Michael does admit to straying, you'd think he committed atrocities against humanity in the way Jenna shuts him out of her life. Sure, being betrayed, especially if you're pregnant and unwed, isn't going to feel great but are women in Wisconsin really that unsophisticated to think the possibility isn't there?

Then Kim, who seems to be a girl who knows no boundaries when it comes to flirting with a dude at a wedding who obviously has a girlfriend, gets the idea that one late night hook up is for forever? She's in college for god's sake, how can it take this little to break her heart? It's not as though she and Michael seem to have much of anything in common, as their interaction is limited to brief car rides and noisy house parties.

It really is ironic that the final desperate straw for Michael to ditch Kim is when she shows up at his office with a mix CD. Seeing the Braff turn down a compilation made by a girl, and one who carries the additional meta significance of having made her fame by starring on TV show infamous for choice mixes, is quite biting. Sadly, CC seriously doubts director Tony Goldwyn would consciously concoct anything quite that Entertainment Weekly-caliber silly. His characters after all make jokes about hybrid cars and think their puny little lives carry the significance of Tolstoy.

Doesn't Braff have the weirdest chin in the above production still with Barrett? This is not the chin of a forceful man.

Posted by karen at September 15, 2006 4:50 PM