If names like Tony Goldwyn and Paul Haggis weren’t attached, you’d swear "The Last Kiss" was just another Edward Burns movie.
In fact, it’s a lot like Burns’ last movie, "The Groomsmen," even though it’s a remake of the Italian "L’Ultimo Bacio." Four guys, longtime best friends, all reach a crisis point in their respective relationships as they approach 30. And they’re all sensitive enough to express their fears and frustrations in hyperarticulate terms.
Michael (Zach Braff) is reluctant to marry his pregnant girlfriend, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), even though she’s obviously a smart, beautiful, cool woman. Fearing being tied down and longing for some surprise in his life _ he’s an architect, yawn _ he ends up having a fling with a vivacious college student (Rachel Bilson of "The O.C." in her first big film role) he met at a wedding.
Like Natalie Portman in "Garden State," which Braff directed, wrote and starred in, Bilson’s character has flashes of irresistible precociousness, and does prematurely familiar things like taking his hand and placing it on her chest to feel her heart beat within minutes of meeting him.
But unlike what we’ve seen from Braff thus far _ both in "Garden State" and on the TV series "Scrubs"_ here he plays a selfish, childish cad, one whose actions are despicable and destructive and definitely not well-thought out. (With those big, blue eyes of his, though, he clearly still wants to be loved, deep down.)
Meanwhile, Michael’s colleague, Chris (Casey Affleck), is thinking about leaving his wife after finding that having a child together didn’t improve their marriage. They’re still constantly at each other’s throats, though she’s the one who comes off poorly, as a tyrannical nag.
Another friend, Izzy (Michael Weston) is still lovesick over a recent breakup with his girlfriend (Marley Shelton) and becomes drunkenly obsessed with winning her back. (It doesn’t work.)
And so on.
There are some amusingly crass moments here and there. You know, guy stuff. But Goldwyn ("A Walk on the Moon"), directing a screenplay from Haggis (who directed and co-wrote last year’s big Oscar winner "Crash"), is tonally all over the place. Too often, he veers jarringly between wackiness and melodrama, between cute, intimate moments and bold sexuality. (The latter comes courtesy of yet another friend in the group, played by Eric Christian Olsen.)
Once Jenna discovers Michael’s infidelity _ because this is one of those movies in which all the inhabitants are horrible liars _ the result is screaming and crying, slapped faces and slammed doors, followed by proclamations of love and the obligatory, melancholy Coldplay song. It gets shrill and it feels like it will never end. But Goldwyn does get some lovely moments out of Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner (with talent like that it would be impossible not to) as Jenna’s parents, whose 30-year marriage is also on the verge of collapse. When they’re on screen, "The Last Kiss" feels like a different film _ one that’s substantial, alive and achingly real.