A few words of warning – don’t expect “The Last Kiss” to be “Garden State 2.” Beyond featuring Zach Braff and a killer soundtrack that may just do for the UK group Snow Patrol what “Garden State” did for the Shins, the two films have next to nothing in common. Where the 2004 indie hit was ultimately a comedic, feel-good love story, “The Last Kiss” takes a decidedly different approach to the idea of romance by looking at its failure.

On a basic level “The Last Kiss” is about the confusion and chaos that comes with turning 30. It is a new phase in life that, for Michael (Braff) and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), means settling down and starting a family – trading in the carefree recklessness of youth for relative stability. However, as the lives of Michael and Jenna’s friends and family show, there is still an element of chaos at age 30 and beyond that is produced by the struggle between a relationship’s stagnancy and the individual’s desire for change. “The Last Kiss” thus is more interestingly a story about the pursuit of these desires, the consequences and realizations about what it is one truly needs.

Based on the 2001 Italian film “L’Ultimo Bacio,” “The Last Kiss,” directed by Tony Goldwyn, presents a realistic view of relationships in all of their various stages. While the realism is a nice contrast to the typical Hollywood romance, its portrayal of the breakdown of relationships at all stages – from the non-committal fling to the 30-year marriage – is overwhelmingly depressing.

The confusion and awkwardness of Michael is a definite departure from the romantic comedic character of Andrew Largeman in “Garden State,” but Braff does an excellent job in conveying the emotions of his more dramatic character. Barrett gives a very convincing performance of the naive Jenna and her desire for stability. Rachel Bilson of “The OC” does equally well in her portrayal of Kim, the young, reckless foil to Jenna.

The award-winning Blythe Danner and Oscar-nominated Tom Wilkson add to the drama with their excellent representation of a troubled marriage.

From a production standpoint, the use of distant camera angles and small spaces greatly intensifies the emotional tension between characters. Additionally, the camera movements enhance the reality by making the audience a part of the movie.

However, if your motivation for going to movies is for a brief escape of reality, then this film may not be your top choice. Despite the fact that this is not the feel-good story of the year, “The Last Kiss” is a well-acted, creatively filmed alternative not to reality, but to the formulaic Hollywood romances that saturate the box office.



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