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The Last Kiss (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Whatís wrong with Jacinda Barrett (Jenna)? Sheís beautiful and she can act. But she is in movies with romantic leads, like Jon Heder (ďSchool for ScoundrelsĒ) and Zach Braff (Michael), who are, well, they are not Brad Pitt or Cary Grant.

And thatís the one thing thatís wrong with this film. We are supposed to believe that Braff is such a hot guy that women will be panting at the mere sight of him. The guyís not a bad actor, but heís not a romantic lead, any more than Ray Romano is. Letís get right down and dirty. To think that a hottie like Rachel Bilson (Kim) would see him across a crowded room and fly to his side is ludicrous. Braff is a guy no woman would look at twice, if they even looked at him once.

Worse, Braff apparently is clueless in real life. I saw him on Regis and Kelly promoting this film. He showed a clip of a dramatic moment in the film and cautioned that the rest of the film isnít like this; stating fairly categorically that it is a comedy.

Trust me, this is no comedy. This is a heavy, well-written (Paul Haggis of ďCrashĒ) study of relationships. Itís realistic. Unfortunately, apparently audiences are coming ready to laugh, and laugh they did at my showing. I missed the screening so went with regular audiences. I came away thinking that my audience was the dumbest in the history of film, because they were laughing all the way through. In one scene Jenna is so distraught she pulls a knife on Michael. My audience laughed. This was not only not a scene of humor, it was one of the climactic scenes in the movie. And they laughed. Thatís not because itís a poorly directed (Tony Goldwyn) or poorly-written film. Itís because Braff and the studios were out there promoting this film as a comedy and itís not. If youíre going for humor youíre going to be disappointed.

If youíre going for drama, this is your cup of tea. Even though Braff doesnít look the part (he even looks like Romano), he ends up doing a fairly professional job of acting. And he had a tough job because heís up against Barrett, who gives an Oscar-worthy performance. Barrett passed the crying test as she sheds real tears on cue. Braff was at least smart enough not to include a crying scene. Itís unlikely heís up to it.

Jennaís pregnant and betrothed to Michael, who is not real sure he wants to get into what heís getting into. Michael has three friends, Chris (Casey Affleck), Izzy (Michael Weston), and Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) each of whom has relationship problems. They give mixed performances. Affleck is affecting as the friend trapped in a marriage with a shrew. Weston is given a flawed part to play, and thatís the fault of Haggis and Goldwyn, not Weston. The lovesick Izzy is poorly conceived and unrealistic. Olsen looks and plays the stud for whom a relationship lasing more than 12 hours is overly long, well.

Jennaís parents, Stephen (Tom Wilkinson) and Anna (Blythe Danner) have problems of their own in their 30-year marriage. Wilkinson and Danner capture their dilemma poignantly, as each gives advice to their daughter and her boy friend.

Haggis has created another unique, compelling script. This guy is a winner. Forget the skewed promotion; this is an involving drama.

September 29, 2006