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Zach Braff broke from his TV roots in Scrubs to write, direct and star in the superb Garden State, a quirky little romantic comedy drama which dealt with real characters and real relationships in a charming, well-observed manner. It was a truly enjoyable movie. He appears to be following up his romantic comedy kick-off with more movies in the same vein, as his latest, The Ex, is about to be released, and his last film, The Last Kiss, hit DVD just in time for Valentine’s Day. Ironically, this movie isn’t all that hot on either romance or comedy, instead painting a fairly dramatic study of relationships.

Last Kiss, The

Movie


Michael and Jenna are happily cohabiting when Jenna becomes pregnant with their first child. They are in love, but marriage is not currently on the cards. Why? Well, on the fact of it, it is because they do not want to feel obliged to tie the knot purely as a reaction to the pregnancy. But the truth is that Michael is scared. And he has doubts. His uncertainty is compounded by a chance encounter with Kim at a friend’s wedding. She immediately takes a shine to him and, in his emotionally confused state, he offers little resistance to seeing her again. All the while Jenna is oblivious to what is going on with her other half, distracted somewhat by the fact that her parents are going through a particularly messy patch in their marriage. Her mother appears to be going through some kind of delayed mid-life crisis and her father is trying his best not to rise to the bait. Between that and her own rampant hormones due to the baby, Jenna is blissfully unaware of the desperately confused mess that Michael is drowning in. Will their relationship be destroyed by this or will they live happily ever after?

Following on from his acclaimed (if marginally heavy-handed) study of racism, the Award-Winning Crash, writer Paul Haggis has decided to adopt the same approach when looking at relationships. He tells a story that, ostensibly, is pitched as something of a romantic comedy but turns out to be—as aforementioned—quite a serious drama. In the same way as he did for Crash, he has taken a large ground of well-developed and interesting characters and thrown them into various troublesome relationships. And in the same way as Crash portrayed a slightly contrived vision of racism (i.e. pretty-much everybody was racist in one way or another), the amount of cheating, confusion and distress here make this an equally skewed affair. All of Michael’s friends are in various states of distress (whether they choose to admit it or not) with one of them unhappily married with a young baby, one of them self-destructing because he cannot get over his ex and one fully contented by a loveless relationship based purely on sex.

Last Kiss, The
Thankfully—and unlike Crash—there is more focus on the three main characters here (Michael, Kim and the other woman, Rachel), with the secondary story arc following the parents. This allows you to get to know the characters—although you may still not necessarily like them, despite the fact that they are portrayed by some very lovable acting talent. The two female leads are perfectly cast, with Jacinda Barrett ( Poseidon) on top emotional form as the pregnant Jenna and The O.C.’s Rachel Bilson cuter and sweeter than ever as the young Kim. Zach Braff’s the main actor and he handles the material well, although this is not your sweet but authentic affair as per Garden State, and not everybody will actually like his character. Other noteworthy performances come from the likes of Tom Wilkinson ( Batman Begins) and Blythe Danner ( Meet the Parents) as the parents who have their own relationship to worry about, and Michael Weston (a good friend of Zach Braff, also playing in Garden State with him) as the heartbroken Izzy, one of Michael’s friends.

There are also one or two noteworthy moments of perfect story weaving (like when the father vents his own true feelings about his wife’s betrayal, disguising them as criticism of Michael’s behaviour) in what is otherwise a moderately bleak look at relationships. It is here that Haggis’ best side comes across and these moments, as well as the distinct lack of cliché involved in his work, make the drama much more engaging. I may not fully agree with all of the ideas posited, nor go for the multiple early mid-life crisis approach to the story, but the end result is quite an unusual little drama about relationships, with a fraction of romance and a tinge of humour thrown into the mix—and it is worth watching.

Last Kiss, The

Video


The Last Kiss gets a pretty good video presentation. It is a very recent production so you would expect nothing less. The most noteworthy thing has to be the palette, with the Wisconsin-based location offering up a fresh, naturally summery look. Skin tones are vibrant and the lack of grain means that the shadows end up looking fairly good. Detail is maintained throughout and there is very little softness. This anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer, presented in the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, is certainly good quality and does the film justice.

Audio


Although the soundtrack to The Last Kiss is nowhere near as good as that for, for example, Garden State, there are still some quite memorable songs that generally represent the best moments in the mix. Presented in standard Dolby Digital 5.1, the dialogue comes across well throughout, giving the fronts and centre a fair amount to do. There is a slightly distinct lack of effects—well certainly nothing big—although there are enough atmospheric noises (like downpours) that at least give the surrounds something to do. Which basically leaves the song tracks to shine, rounding off a reasonably but unexceptional effort.

Last Kiss, The

Extras


There are two audio commentaries, the first with just the director Tony Goldwyn and the star Zach Braff. It is quite an amusing affair—as you would only expect from Braff—with him on top sarcastic form. They offer up insight into everything from auditioning the girls who would offer their legs to the opening sequence, to the fun they had with the lesbian strippers and how Braff added depth to several of the characters. The anecdotes are fabulous, including a great impression of Rachel Bilson that Braff performs, and overall it is a thoroughly enjoyable and moderately informative listen. The second commentary is with Goldwyn and Braff, as well as several of the other cast members—Jacinda, Rachel, Michael Weston and Eric Christian Olsen. It is a much more sporadic offering, however, with plenty of pauses where the commentators appear to be just sitting back and watching the movie as well. It also has too many overlapping comments with the other commentary, giving you the impression that it should have really been merged into one single comprehensive effort. Despite the option, few are likely to actually listen to both of these efforts.

‘Filmmakers’ Perspective’ is a brief, two-minute chat about how the writer used the script for the Italian movie L’Ultimo Bacio to formulate this movie’s screenplay, with comments from the filmmakers set to the backdrop of clips from the final film as well as some stills. ‘Getting Together’ is a much more expansive twenty-seven minute affair where they briefly introduce the film and the story, before delving into a deep exploration of each individual character, with interview clips from the relevant cast members (including Lauren Lee Smith, Casey Affleck, Tom Wilkinson and the three leads). ‘Behind Our Favourite Scenes’ is a collection of the cast and crew’s favourite scenes with brief introductions explaining why they made their choices, and then behind the scenes footage of the scenes being shot cut alongside the final film clips.

‘Last Thoughts’ is another brief offering where the filmmakers discuss what the public wants from movies these days and how they provided it with this production. We also get fourteen minutes of deleted footage, comprising five deleted scenes and two alternate endings. For the first time in a while I have actually come across some deleted footage that is well worth watching, particularly if you love the movie (or if you just want more of the bachelor party scene). The alternate endings let you see more of what happened to the characters further down the line and the other scenes (including some scene extensions) develop characters and include some good lines. The three minute gag reel is also worth your time, with plenty of laughs—mainly thanks to Zach Braff. Finally we get some trailers (the theatrical trailer available from the menu and a couple of previews that play on disc startup— Miss Potter and Bobby), and the Cary Brothers’ ‘Ride’ music video (noteworthy because it was directed by Zach Braff) to complete the extras.

Last Kiss, The

Verdict


The Last Kiss is a decent enough drama, with some good acting talent and quite an original story. It may not appeal to everybody, and does paint quite a dour picture of relationships, but those who like it will be happy with the technical specifications of this release. It’s got superior video, suitable audio and a wealth of extras that are actually worthy of your time.


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