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The Last Kiss

No More Surprises

Anyone that's turned thirty has gone through it. The dreaded Saturn Return. If you don't know what I mean then you obviously haven't had to struggle through it. To those of you currently embroiled in this period of self-doubt, reflection and self-analysis I say: stay strong my brothers and sisters! You will prevail and be a lot happier afterwards. But be wary -- pain and suffering in large doses are ahead. Unfortunately, this milestone is exactly what the protagonist in the much anticipated The Last Kiss is facing.

Written by screenwriter extraordinaire Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby and Crash) and directed by Tony Goldwyn (best known as "the bad guy from Ghost" but also a prolific television director), The Last Kiss follows the trials and tribulations of four childhood buddies. Think a WB sitcom but all grown up and a lot funnier -- oh, and better acted.

Like any tight-knit group of small friends, each has his place. There's Michael (Zach Braff) who's afraid of growing up, there's Izzy (a scene-stealing Michael Weston) who wears his heart on his sleeve and is drunk/stoned for three-quarters of the movie, there's the unhappily married Chris (Casey Affleck) and then there's the perpetually naked Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) who is also the bonafide bachelor of the group.

While all four friend's stories are touched upon, the main focus of the film is Michael. On the outside, he's got it all: a great job, a great relationship, a great place. He's a month shy of thirty and doing pretty damn well for himself. On the inside, of course, he's a mess. Hello, Saturn Return.

His relationship with his girlfriend of three years Jenna (Jacinda "I'm amazingly pretty" Barrett) is progressing into the point-of-no-return territory and, frankly, it is freaking him out. He feels as if his whole life is already planned out for him and, as he states several times throughout the film, that "there are no more surprises" left.

Enter Kim (Rachel Bilson of "The O.C." fame). He meets the bold co-ed at another childhood friend's wedding (you don't ever learn much about that guy) and she dangles temptation in his face. The rest of the film unfurls in a wave of drama as each character faces his/her own crisis, including Jenna's own parents whose relationship is teetering on rocky ground.

The Last Kiss has moments of touching brilliance. However, it suffers from its multiple storylines. It seems as if there was some kind of planned progression in the first two-thirds of the movie as you move from one character to the other with ease, but by the end itís just a mish mash of unresolved stories. The movie touches upon Izzy and Kenny's life but delves no deeper. And in one or two scenes you get the suspicion that too much of the film was left on the cutting room floor leaving it feeling unfinished.

However, the writing is top notch and snappy. All except for Kim's lines. Some of her dialogue is trite. Lines like "make love to me" just don't seem right coming out of a horny 19-year old entering into a potential one night stand. Blythe Danner is luminescent as Jenna's menopausal, unstable mother and Braff gives a commendable performance. Indeed the whole ensemble is excellent.

There are many reasons to go see The Last Kiss. The writing. The acting. The story. The outstanding soundtrack. Or just go to relive the painful memories of your own Saturn Return and be glad that it is over.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars