So one day Hollywood said, let there be a movie that resembles an independent film. Let it contain fresh young actors in dramatic poses set to "underground" music. Let it be based on a French film, only let's set it in Wisconsin. Let it be called The Last Kiss. And Hollywood saw that it was good. And so did I… for the most part.
Don't get me wrong. I liked this movie. The story was decent – nothing really brilliant until the very end. The cinematography was decent – a little overdramatic for that "indie" feel. But the reason I liked it, above all else, was the actors' ability to separate themselves from the characters we expect to see. And that's basically what this review will focus on.
We expect to see Zach Braff play someone eccentric. On the show Scrubs, Zach plays a silly, almost inhuman, cartoon character. In his film Garden State (The kind of movie Last Kiss wants to be) he plays the exact opposite - an overly medicated Debbie-downer. But can he play Michael, a normal guy, faced with normal conflicts? Yep, and he plays a pretty convincing one, which says a lot for someone who usually plays on the extreme.
There were several times where I wanted him to react a certain way, to shout or dance around. There were even several times where I wanted him to discuss his feelings in a hilarious internal monologue. But he held true to his character, and throughout the film we often wonder what he is thinking. In fact, there were several times when I shouted, "What are you thinking!?"
Sure, he's not the first actor to pick different roles for protection against typecasting. I'm not praising him on that aspect (although he is doing it early in his career - so kudos for that). I'm praising him because his performance in The Last Kiss is obvious proof of his range. Sometimes playing an average person is the hardest to pull off.
Rachel Bilsson's performance is worth praising as well. Her first lines of dialogue as Kim were a little bit "OC". You know the kind, a little overdone and phony. So at first I was a little disappointed. But as the film progressed, her dialogue became a little less forced and perhaps her character was only trying to impress the lead with her wit. The interesting thing, though, is that her collegiate character is more teen-like than her younger OC character. It would have been very easy to play Kim as she plays Summer on The OC. But where Summer is void of personality and true-age, Kim is the perfect example of a college girl. She's a little bit goofy, she's a little bit shy, she wants to be mature, she wants the older guy to like her, and without giving too much away, she thinks she knows how to get the older guy to like her. I sat down ready to dislike Kim, expecting her to be a deliberate home-wrecker. But she's really not. You truly feel sorry for her. My favorite scene involves a mixed CD, and the scene completely belongs to her. She's just so naive you want to cry.
Other than Zach and Rachel, no one else really shines as much, and there are a lot of actors in this movie. Jacinda Barrett plays Jenna, and she's okay. I can only compare her performance to her work in The Real World and, well, I guess this is better. She cries a lot and makes some interesting grunts, but otherwise her acting is just good, not wonderful.
This large cast I mentioned before is required because of all the side-stories. My guess is that these stories were in the original French film. But even so, they just weren't fleshed out here. I walked away wondering what the point of it all was. Were they added to make the movie longer? Maybe the main story didn't fill the hour and a half time slot. Really, I think that these extra characters and stories were included to contrast Michael's life. Their lives were a little crazy, whereas Michael was bored. Enter Michael's motivation.
Casey Affleck's story is touching, but pointless as far as I'm concerned.
Eric Christian Olsen is funny as Kenny, but again, pointless. In fact, his scenes are quite raunchy and would be better off on the cutting room floor (Maybe they can add them back later for the Uncut DVD release!) They made me feel icky.
The story of Jenna's mother and father, played by Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson, is interesting. And it does tie in with Jenna's motivations. I like that. We often see a woman scorned, and see the standard reaction. Here, the mother's actions have a significant affect on Jenna's behavior.
You do care about the majority of the characters in the film. I related to them and this was do largely in part to the actors, not necessarily the writing. You have to start with a good screenplay and good dialogue obviously, but in this film the actors truly make the characters real and make the movie good.
The soundtrack left much to be desired and I even cringed when I heard Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek." I love her, and I love the song, but enough already. How many times can we use this song whilst pretty actors do something depressing on screen? Coldplay even appears on this soundtrack. Nuff said.
Like I said before this film wants to be another Garden State. Which is fine. But I guarantee you, at some point during the filmmaking, some studio executive saw some dailies and shouted "Oooh! That's so Indie!" And that's lame.
I give it… 3 kisses.