As if Hollywood films needed any outside help to celebrate arrested narcissism, along comes The Last Kiss, Tony Goldwyn’s Americanization of the spurious Gabriele Muccino whinefest of the same name. As with the 2001 Italian original, audiences are to be schooled in the hardships of white, privileged twentysomethings contemplating premature crises, here translated into 104 minutes of Zach Braff gazing into the distance while looking pensively dissatisfied. As Michael, an architect feeling the heft of age and responsibility creep in, Braff reprises his self-fondling Garden State naïf with half the drowsiness and twice the selfishness; with a pregnant girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett) posing the double threat of matrimony and parenthood, life seems to have no more secrets in store to him, and, if that’s still too ambiguous, screenwriter Paul let-me-spell-that-out-for-you Haggis lends a hand: “I’m fucking trapped!”
The heavy hand of the Crash culprit is felt throughout the hissy fits of The Last Kiss, strenuously smearing tragicomic shtick all across the cast: Chris (Casey Affleck) can’t deal with his wife and baby; Izzy (Michael Weston) can’t get over being ditched by his girlfriend; Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) finds his lothario ways tainted with insecurity; Michael’s future parents-in-law (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson) grope with their own marital demons; and so on and on. Meanwhile, Michael ponders the possibility of sex with Kim (Rachel Bilson), a bouncy coed who proclaims herself his “last chance at happiness”; the protagonist’s very convenient struggle between frathouse horniness and domestic guilt mirrors nothing so much as the picture’s own bankrupt desire to have it both ways with viewers, begging sympathy for its assorted lunkheads while indulging in their smugness.
That Aimee Mann pops up in the soundtrack seems inevitable considering the original’s Magnolia pretensions, though at least Goldwyn, due arguably to his primary experience as an actor, is a far less egotistic director. Even with more attention lavished on the ensemble, however, only Danner’s menopausal train-wreck emerges as having fully earned her hysteria, and this only after the actress has obediently pantomimed the prototypical bourgeois silent scream behind a glass pane—a Haggis moment if there was ever one, and one all too emblematic of the film’s muffled alliance to its characters’ adolescent shrillness.