Don’t pay any attention to the description on the back of DVD case. Described as “hilarious”, this film is anything but. While it may have a few funny moments, we’re talking about a serious drama. The Last Kiss is a cautionary tale about temptation. It presents the circumstances and life choices of 30-year-olds in an intense, honest way, which makes the film both completely engrossing as well as difficult to watch.
The story centres around Michael (Zach Braff), a 29-year-old architect, and his girlfriend of three years, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett). Jenna is newly pregnant, and Michael is scared. Michael’s best friend, Chris (Casey Affleck), is having a rough time with his own wife and their baby. Another friend has recently split from a long relationship. Jenna’s folks, Anna and Stephen (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson), are also on the brink of a breakup.
Surrounded and intimidated by these examples of modern-day relationships, Michael is also feeling a sense of permanence to his life, like everything from here on out has been decided. No more surprises. Early on in the film, these friends all attend another friend’s wedding, where Michael meets Kim (Rachel Bilson), a sexy college girl. The chemistry is strong, and as the film develops, Michael’s temptation will threaten the life he thought was already scripted.
The Last Kiss is an adaptation of Ultimo Bacio, LÃ©, an Italian film written and directed by Gabriele Muccino. Paul Haggis, who penned Million Dollar Baby, Crash and Casino Royale, adapted Muccino’s screenplay for The Last Kiss. In the DVD’s extra features, Haggis claims all he really did was translate the script into English, but we learn elsewhere that he also changed the film’s ending – for the better, in my opinion. Shared credit should go to Muccino and Haggis, then, for this superbly written film. The characters are very real, as are their circumstances, reactions, and fears. They really pegged the struggle of transitioning from the frivolity of youth to the weighty, serious nature of “adult” life.
The film’s music also deserves mention. The soundtrack is an excellent accompaniment to the film’s events, characters and emotions. Based on its similarity in quality and taste to Zach Braff’s soundtrack for Garden State, I assume Braff had a hand in choosing the songs for The Last Kiss. It includes tunes by Snow Patrol, Coldplay, Imogen Heap, Joshua Radin, and others, each well-selected.
Finally, the film’s cast is excellent. Braff displays an emotional range beyond anything he’s shown thus far, and Jacinda Barrett makes the pain of betrayal very, very real. The rest of the ensemble also shines, with highlights being Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson as Jenna’s parents.
The Last Kiss is the most realistic film portrayal of modern romantic relationships in recent memory. It’s well written, crafted and acted. However, you will likely find yourself feeling uncomfortable in several scenes, so be warned. There is also a significant element of unnecessarily graphic sexual content, something that is certainly not important to tell this story. The film could have been of the same quality without this element. It’s a shame that the filmmakers felt they needed to include these elements to tell their story, but it can’t be helped.
So, how’s the DVD?
The Last Kiss is presented on a single disc, in 2.35:1 widescreen. The transfer is top-notch. Colours are accurate, contrast is good, there are no noticeable compression issues or film artifacts, and the picture is nice and sharp.
The main menu is animated, and scored.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is solid. While the film’s audio is mainly dialogue – all of which is crystal clear – the soundtrack fills things out very nicely.
Audio is also offered in Dolby 2.0 Surround for English and French, while English and Spanish subtitles are available.
The Last Kiss offers up a respectable selection of bonus material, including two audio commentaries, five deleted scenes, two alternate endings, four featurettes of varying length, a gag reel, a music video, and some trailers.
- The first audio commentary is by Zach Braff and director Tony Goldwyn, and it’s chock full of laughs. These two share a great, joking rapport, and it makes this track very entertaining. Thankfully, the pair also offers a lot of insight on filmmaking choices, and the acting decisions made be the cast. Definitely worth a listen.
- The second audio commentary isn’t nearly as good. There are simply too many cooks in the kitchen, with Zach Braff, Tony Goldwyn, Jacinda Barrett, Casey Affleck, Rachel Bilson, and the list goes on. Stick with the Braff-Goldwyn track for insightful commentary.
- The deleted scenes are worth a look, but they wouldn’t have added anything important to the film. They include an extended version of the treehouse scene where Michael and Kim first connect, in which the only real addition is a couple more funny lines.
- Watching the two alternate endings affirms that the filmmakers made the right choice in the final version. I don’t want to spoil anything, but so I’ll just say that this is a case of less is more.
- Then there’s Getting Together, a 26-minute featurette about casting the film. It includes a bit about choosing Paul Haggis to adapt the Italian screenplay, and then focuses on casting the ensemble, from Zach Braff on. This is a typical featurette, but it rises about other similar pieces by offering good insight on the casting choices.
- Filmmakers’ Perspective is very short, and basically just presents the director and producers talking about why they chose to do the film. It includes a few clips from the movie.
- Behind Our Favorite Scenes is lengthier at about eight minutes, and also quite interesting. Here the director, producer and a couple of the cast members each discuss their favourite scene, and why they like it. While there is some overlap with information gleaned from the commentary tracks, this one is still worth watching.
- Last Thoughts is just a quick wrap-up about the film and what makes it special. Nothing new added here.
- Then there’s the music video, Ride, by Carey Brothers. It includes a quick intro by Zach Braff, who directed it. Not a bad video, I suppose.
- The gag reel is better than average, but still not very amusing. It runs almost three minutes, and there are a few laughs to be had, but they’ll probably be chuckles at best.
Finally, there’s a collection of trailers, including the one for The Last Kiss.
The Last Kiss is a raw, honest film, with a solid cast presenting a script adapted by a red-hot screenwriter. The DVD is of excellent quality, with a decent selection of extra features. If you enjoy the film, you’ll be happy to add this disc to your collection.