THE LAST KISS A major award winner both at Sundance and in its Italian homeland, 2001’s The Last Kiss (L’Ultimo Bacio) tackles the topic of relationships in such a straightforward and emotionally honest manner that by the end, it’s impossible to ascertain whether the film is, at its core, deeply pessimistic or quietly hopeful. An American remake would naturally be expected to dumb down the entire experience. But that’s not exactly what happens with the new stateside take on The Last Kiss. To a startling degree, this version retains many of the prickly elements that made the original so memorable; it only falters at the very end, and even then by a far lesser degree than one would reasonably expect. The Last Kiss places its primary focus on the relationship between Michael (Zach Braff) and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett). Michael is about to turn 30 and elects to have his mid-life crisis about a decade earlier than planned. He’s deeply in love with his longtime girlfriend Jenna, but once she announces that she’s pregnant, he freaks out, deciding that he’s not prepared to cope with either being a husband or being a father. Kim (Rachel Bilson), a college student who’s perpetually perky, spots Michael at a wedding and is instantly attracted to him. Initially, Michael feebly fights off her advances, but soon he’s the one dropping by the campus to see her and making plans to go with her to a party. The situations presented here are strikingly similar to the ones on display in the Italian original, which means that this film rarely backs away from confronting thorny situations head-on. If there’s a key difference, it’s in the personalities of these various players. The characters in L’Ultimo Bacio felt in every sense like real adults, grown people with a passion for life and, for the most part, a determination to ultimately face up to their own shortcomings. This latest Kiss, on the other hand, fits more comfortably into the niche of recent films that portray the American male as a man-child incapable of achieving and/or sustaining the level of maturity and clear-eyed vision enjoyed by his female counterpart. The final sequence is more open-ended than what’s typically served up in American films of this nature, yet I still found myself wishing it had gone farther.
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