The Last Kiss

on August 16, 2002 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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The rare remake that improves on the original, “The Last Kiss,” which first saw light as a banal 2001 Italian movie, centers on Michael (Zach Braff of “Garden State” and TV's“Scrubs”), a 29-year-old architect about to turn 30 who is living with his newly pregnant girlfriend Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) and, like his close friends, dreading the possibility that he may not get any more “surprises” out of life. When he meets Kim (Rachel Bilson), a younger, and very sexy, college girl at a wedding, temptation beckons, and Michael begins something he can't handle.

Much more smartly written by Paul Haggis than his usual work (“Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby”), “The Last Kiss” is an intelligent examination of dreams deferred, responsibility denied and the age-old feeling that, no matter how happy you may be, there's always the possibility that something better is waiting around the corner. Braff, who's becoming an expert at portraying the decent man-child who means well but often hurts the ones he loves, is exceptional here: His pained smiles, panicked looks and uncomfortable body language reveal more than many actors do by merely uttering their lines. He's well matched by Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson, superb as Jenna's parents, who have emotional issues of their own, and Bilson, heartbreaking as the immature nice girl who misjudges Michael, to her eternal regret.

“The Last Kiss,” like its Italian progenitor, is less generous to the women in the movie, who even when being wronged by the men in their lives come across as shrewish. It's also badly directed by Tony Goldwyn (“A Walk on the Moon”), who layers an unsuitable slick gloss onto the screenplay's serious concerns. Nevertheless, despite its deficiencies, this film cuts pretty deep, especially when compared to most recent Hollywood dramas.

Starring Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson. Directed by Tony Goldwyn. Written by Paul Haggis. Produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Andre Lamal and Marcus Viscidi. Drama. A Paramount release. Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language. Running time: 104 min.

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