The Last Kiss is based on the internationally acclaimed Italian movie L’ultimo bacio which was written by Gabriele Muccino and adapted for this American version by screenwriter Paul Haggis. From all reports the movie is remarkably similar to the Italian classic with only the ending modified. Haggis tells us in the extras of this release that he attempted to merely translate the original work and performed little in the way of modifications. From the looks of things, the ending was a bit of a struggle for these filmmakers, as there are three different versions available on the release. I think it’s safe to say that the more open-ended version which was ultimately used was probably the best of the choices I’ve seen.
The plot of the film is a rather difficult one to summarize. The movie is less about plot points or beats and is more about the emotional journey of many of the characters. The main story is about Michael (Braff). He’s 29 and fast approaching 30, a time when many people begin that introspective examination of their lives. He’s been with his girlfriend, Jenna (Barrett) for some time but has avoided the ultimate commitment of marriage. We quickly learn it’s a four letter word in their relationship. Now she’s pregnant, and Michael is facing fatherhood. He’s worried that his life is now set out before him with no more “surprises” or diversions left to him. While at the wedding of one of their friends, Michael meets Kim. She’s much younger and is attracted to Michael. Of course, this gives his ego a boost, and he begins to spend inappropriate time with the girl. While he resists actually having an affair until after his secret is out, it damages his relationship with Jenna. Suddenly faced with the loss of his “safe” and “predictable” life, he realizes he had it pretty good and wants it back. All of this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Around him, Michael’s friends are also going through major life crises. One friend is married with a young child and but wants out. Another friend appears to be happy. He’s on his own and sleeps with a different chick every day. But even he’s beginning to tire of his “carefree” life. Even Jenna’s parents are struggling with the ins and outs of their own “routine” life. Strangely, each character sees another’s life as far better. It’s a perfect example of the old “grass is greener” axiom.
On the surface the film appears to have a lot of heart but very little substance. And if you judge it by the script, that would appear to be true. There is something more to the piece, and honestly I’ll be damned if I can tell you what it is. Strangely, these lives appear compelling in one way or another. The character development is excellent from both a writing standpoint and performance-wise. This is one of those films that would be made or broken by the casting team. There’s a special talent in being able to pick just the right person for the right part. One would think that they grabbed Zack Braff merely for his current popularity coming off of Scrubs, but a lot more went into that part and all of the others as well. I’ll admit that Jacinda Barrett wasn’t very impressive as Jenna, but surprisingly her performance isn’t as pivotal as most here. Rachel Bilson as Kim adds a lot of vitality to what could have been a slow film. She’s not stunning in any way, but her energy allows you to understand why Michael might risk what he has to be around her. The energy is contagious, and that’s exactly what that character needs at that time.
Unfortunately, the film is not as well paced as it needs to be. There are also too many characters with very complex stories that all have to be cared for in just under two hours. That’s really where the film lost me and appeared to drag on at times. You lose the carefully cultivated emotional momentum at times when we follow characters not really essential to the story on rather extended scenes that don’t ultimately take us anywhere at all. Two friends begin a long road trip that is a total distraction. We also didn’t need to see the many exploits of his “carefree” friend either. Once would have made the point and allowed us to get back to Michael and his turmoil. Finally, the end took a little too long to make its statement. All in all, about 25 minutes of this film could have been trimmed. With those cuts, a slightly better than average movie becomes a quite good one.
The Last Kiss is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image can best be summed up in one word: natural. This is one of the more realistically colored and tinted movies I’ve seen on Blu-ray yet. It’s obvious that the filmmakers believed that the more real life the image looked, the easier it would become to emotionally connect you with these characters. From color to contrast, the movie is like looking out a window. Nothing jumps from the screen in dazzling color, but it looks just right. Black levels are very good. There are a few scenes in the rain that come across perfectly in so far as shadow definition and deep clear blacks. Again, the term you’re looking for is natural. This is one of those image presentations that will simply slip away into invisibility as you watch the thing unfold.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track continues the trend toward a natural and realistic experience. During the rainfall sequences the surrounds fill in perfectly to give us that caught out in the rain feeling. The outdoor scenes allow just enough of nature in the form of crickets and other sounds to remind us that there is a setting to all of this. Of course, this is a very dialog driven film, and all would be lost if that were not perfectly presented. It is. The subtle score never intrudes and only accents when it does make itself known.
All of these features are in SD.:
All of the features are identical to the DVD release. I’ve used Tom Buller’s excellent description of these features from his review of that release a year ago:
- 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 tree house 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 favorite 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.
This is one of those emotional kind of films that you have to be in just the right mellow mood to watch. There’s really no action, and it’s not really a comedy. In spite of the casting of Braff, the role is quite serious. I’m afraid there are many folks out there who might be expecting a romantic comedy. I certainly was. That’s not what this is. Certainly there are light and comedic moments, but this is a straight out and out drama from the beginning. In fact, it’s those comedic moments that often sidetrack the movie. When the film concentrates on its subject matter, it really does work, “And that’s the only thing that matters”.