Mixed Kiss — 6 years ago
I had mixed feelings about this movie, even though all along I felt it was an important film to be made (and yes, I’m in that just-turned-thirty target market). I agree with a few viewers that there was a predictability about it that I really wasn’t expecting, given what I’d read on The Last Kiss website and what lead actor Zach Braff has shared on his blog.
“No Hollywood BS” has been shouted from the rooftops by everybody getting geared up for this film, and I was very excited, too… but for some reason in the actual movie, the humanity of this scenario just kept phasing in and out for me. Some of the moments that make reference to sexuality just weren’t fully human to me… and so, very early on I had the notion that “Hollywood” had not been fully ousted at all – that they would work their clichés and sexual lures in somehow, no matter the good intentions of the film and its creative team. This may be sounding prudish here, but purity is not my point: raw, genuine passion is my point. I felt that rawness much more distinctly in the scene when Jenna’s mother spoke to her former lover in the park than in any scene involving a supposedly romantic or sexually thrilling encounter.
As far as Michael’s revelation that, through this mistake, he has realized that what he truly wants is to spend his life with the now-crushed Jenna [realistically and well played by Jacinda Barrett]… I wanted to see that epiphany take place, hit him like a ton of bricks, what-have-you. Not just, “I got caught and it’s clear that I was an idiot and each new consequence or uncomfortable moment makes me want this all to be over and go back to the way it was even more.” I think this is more of a structural/composition issue than a flaw in Braff’s acting abilities (kind of makes you wonder how this film would have turned out had he been the one adapting and directing the script from the Italian film it was based on). The stuck-on-the-porch concept was compelling… but we do have to wonder: what finally makes the difference in asking for and receiving forgiveness? It’s interesting that the actual topic of forgiveness wasn’t really discussed in the film, maybe only subtly alluded to. If only that subtlety was allocated to some of these other in-your-face elements and the head-on addressing was reserved for the true heart of the story…
I guess the bottom line for me was that, in some moments, I felt the truth of certain characters, and in others, they just became caricatures to me. Obviously certain actors are better with this type of material than others, and the veterans playing Jenna’s parents [Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner] made that clear on-screen. Kim’s character [played by Rachel Bilson] is admittedly a tough one, but I expected something else, something more real (still basing this on the movie’s website information – see “About the Film” in the menu bottom right). Again, I wonder if it had anything at all to do with her potential as an actor – seems just as likely there was some inexplicable indecision behind the way her character was written: “am I the philosophical young college student who feels I might connect more with an older guy who thinks and feels than students my own age, or am I just stereotypical alternately-seductive-and-needily-naïve party girl stealing the boy who seems ready to leave his ‘boring girlfriend’ (pregnancy unbeknownst, of course)?” We were also lightly following the involvements of so many characters that it was tough to see the real arc of any of them. Broad strokes mostly, though some of the details given in Jenna’s interactions with Michael [played by Braff] at home were quite realistic and humorous. Still, I wanted to see their own passion arise from their fear somehow, rather than focus on the scenario of the one girl being “the perfect girl to marry” and the other shown as “the perfect girl to…” well, you know. ;-)
I recognize that The Last Kiss‘s content alone is enough to give people mixed feelings about the film, but in general, I wanted more. Or less. More or less. ;-) But I am glad the door to this discussion has been opened in a different way than say Indecent Proposal (eh) or Unfaithful maybe tried to do (not really sure what they were trying to do with the latter, actually). Now I’m very curious to see the original L’Ultimo Baccio. In reality (a.k.a. “real life”, though the lines are blurring more every day), the struggle being addressed in this film is quite often not so simple… cheating is more often a symptom of other internal conflicts (and sometimes conflicts in the relationship too, of course, but not always), and the person with whom an already-involved person develops an external connection with – however fleeting – is often not some random “hot chick” that was there at the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time. We briefly saw this angle in the situation of Jenna’s mother [Danner], which thankfully added another, albeit difficult, perspective to consider. It would be amazing if more films recognized that the internal conflicts driving human emotion and behavior will always be more moving than the superficial events and circumstances that make it into a big-screen “story.”
On an entirely separate note, while Zach had nothing to do with the writing or direction of this film, the soundtrack he put together for it is top notch and brings to light the emotional, pensive atmosphere that seemed to be the essence of making this film for all of the cast members. Since many of them were listening to much of this music while filming, that makes total sense – and when I think of the truly poignant moments of The Last Kiss (of which there were many, don’t misunderstand my overall reaction based on the points I chose to address above), they do mean more to me in the context of this music (as our own lives often take on more meaning in retrospect when paired with their own personal soundtracks). In any case, it’s wonderful to have someone in the public spotlight doing good for independent and emerging musical artists.