Saturday, September 16, 2006

Movie review: The Last Kiss

Before I say anything about The Last Kiss, I need to be clear about three things. First, I'm an unapologetic Zach Braff fan. Second, Garden State is not the anthem of my generation. Third, I went into TLK totally blind in terms of genre, plot, and reviews. Actually, for a movie that I knew absolutely nothing about, it started out with a lot of baggage: essentially, my affection for Zach Braff compared with an inability to see his current movie without comparing it to Garden State (which, frankly, is the movie's fault, as it's kind of Garden State II). Sadly, The Last Kiss came out on the losing end of that deal.

I'm happy to report that the problem with this movie doesn't lie with Zach Braff himself, although I'm wondering what he'll do when he outgrows the adorkable-hipster vibe, since he's not actually getting any younger. He's surprisingly awkward in the role of discontented everyman (also known as Andrew Largeman: The Later Years), but he actually gets more genuine as the movie requires more of him, and he manages not to wilt when Jacinda Barrett comes at him like a spider monkey (TM Talladega Nights) in a couple of different scenes. His character does boring, predictable bad things, and Braff carries them off well, because he's pretty good at being screwed up in a really average way. In short, he does his job, even when it's unappealing. So it's not really a casting issue.

The problem with this movie is the movie itself, especially the total lack of real characters. There are a lot of them--the plot loosely revolves around four friends and some of their loved ones in various states of relational disrepair--but practically nobody has anything truly genuine or interesting going on, and it all ends up kind of muddled and not a little depressing. Things would have been better with fewer peripheral characters and a little more focus on the people who actually matter to the plot--eliminate the oversexed long-haired guy, for example, and spend more time with Jacinda Barrett, to show that she has some kind of personality--but as it is, it's just a little blurry and hard to follow, and it's hard to care very much.

The other, more specified problem here is Rachel Bilson's "character," Kim. In theory, we're supposed to find her artsy and intriguing. I know this because she's wearing black eyeliner. In reality, she's supremely obnoxious and un-self-aware to the point of unbelievability, and I found myself trying to decide whether she would be the hero or the villain of the movie--not in a "Wow, that's really complex and interesting" kind of way, but in an "I don't know where you're going with this" kind of way. The script fails the character of Kim by giving her no actual characteristics except her youth, which is expressed though utter thoughtlessness and nothing else. It fails the audience because we have to watch her: any role that can make Rachel Bilson unappealing is either really good or impressively bad, and I'll let you guess which one we're going with this time.

There are a few good things mixed in, here. I sort of liked the ending scene. Casey Affleck grew up cute, apparently, and does a good job. Blythe Danner sweeps around in the same flowy linen pants she wears in every movie these days, but she's reliable enough (though her relationship with her onscreen husband doesn't make much sense). There are a couple of good comedic moments, and the possibility of a good soundtrack, and some crazy driving in a Prius. If you're looking for twenty-something angst, though, you're probably better off watching Garden State, and I can't believe I'm saying so.


Sarita said...

Wow. So how did you really feel? :)
Also, that was really well written. I know you are a fellow EA and writer, but I was very impressed by that. You should write movie reviews.
So I am in the midst of listening to what will end up being your new it a test run, if you will. I'll let you know when I ship it out west.

Liz said...

Thanks! That's nice of you to say. Actually, I kind of want you to see this movie and tell me what you think--I suspect it's one of those where you'll like it better than I did. And I didn't HATE it; I just didn't think it was very good. It's possible that a rewatch with different expectations would get a different reaction out of me.

Yay for CDs! I burned yours last night and am going to also give it a listen-through, and I'll let you know when I send it.

Anonymous said...

Ugh - anything with Zach Braff in it is DOA for me. I really hated Garden State. It was soooo boring! (Ben)

Liz said...

You know, it's not even the boring that gets me; it's the sappy. I want to like it, and I do okay for the first hour or so, but the ending is so saccharine that I just can't take it. Somehow, I'm able to separate Zach Braff from his movie, though.