‘The Last Kiss’ takes and conquers fears of forever


“The Last Kiss” takes on this theme with a good script by Oscar nominee Paul Haggis (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Crash”) and a great cast, including Zach Braff, Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson.

Michael (Braff) and his three buddies - Chris (Casey Affleck), Izzy (Michael Weston) and Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) - are heading into the prime of their lives but each seems reluctant to settle into any situation that has the word “forever” attached to it.

Michael has been dating Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) for a few years but has never popped the question. When he and Jenna break the news to her parents, Stephen (Tom Wilkinson) and Anna (Blythe Danner), that Jenna is pregnant, there are a few awkward moments. Anna says that’s not usually the order in which things happen, but she sends Stephen for a bottle of champagne anyway.

Jenna doesn’t seem to mind she and Michael aren’t planning to marry right away. She’s busy with preparing for her sonogram and happy that she and Michael still share so many romantic moments. When the couple attends the wedding of a friend, Michael and his three pals begin to face their fears head on.

Chris has been married to Lisa (Lauren Lee Smith) for a while, and they have an infant son. Lisa has been overwhelmed with motherhood. She can’t get Chris on board to help out when he returns from his work at the architectural firm where Michael also works. The two end up arguing endlessly, and Chris feels like he can’t take another minute in this situation.

Izzy is half drunk at the wedding when his ex-girlfriend and the love of his life, Arianna (Marley Shelton) shows up. He makes a big scene before his friends remove him from the grounds, and he still doesn’t understand that these kinds of actions caused Arianna’s main problem with him.

Izzy continues with his bad behavior around town, which is getting him nowhere. Finally, he decides to buy a motorhome and take off for the wild blue yonder to sow more wild oats before facing his forever.

Kenny, a bartender with a hang-loose attitude, has had many girls. When he meets Danielle (Cindy Sampson) at the wedding and finds perfect harmony with her in the bedroom, he thinks he’s found nirvana.

Only several days after their relationship begins, however, she brings her parents to meet him. That’s a signal Kenny isn’t ready for, so he quits his job and agrees to go with Izzy on his trip.

His friends’ unraveling relationships are scaring Michael. The last straw comes when Jenna’s mom leaves her husband, admitting that she had an affair several years ago and isn’t happy with Stephen. Zach Braff’s character here is far more focused than his dazed and bewildered Andrew in “Garden State.” In “The Last Kiss,” he demonstrates again that he’s one of Hollywood’s best young actors.

While at their friend’s wedding, Kim (Rachel Bilson), a young college girl, comes on to Michael. Confused by all the emotions he’s experiencing, he agrees to meet her after school one day.

He has an affair with Kim that Jenna finds out about. Betrayed and devastated, Jenna throws him out of the house even though he begs her to forgive him.

“The Last Kiss” would be just another ordinary movie if not for Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner. They needed little guidance from great director Tony Goldwyn (“A Walk on the Moon”). Their storyline is the underlying thread of the film and they feed that thread through the needle of the plot scene after scene.

Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom”) can say more with a gaze than most actors can say in a page of dialogue. His minimalist expressions of hurt when Anna announces she’s leaving him tell us everything Stephen is feeling right down to his toes.

Likewise with Blythe Danner (“Meet the Parents”). Her emotional roller-coaster life transcends events throughout the movie, from the moment of complete desperation when she throws a bottle of make-up at Stephen to lunching with Jenna when she explains that although Jenna lives in a black-and-white world, there are lots of grays in between.

“The Last Kiss,” a poignant story about love and friendship based on the motion picture “L'Ultimo Bacio,” illustrates that commitment is not the end of life, but often the beginning.

“The Last Kiss” is playing at AMC La Jolla 12.