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Heartaches of The Last Kiss

A remake of Gabriele Muccino's L'Ultimo Bacio, the script for The Last Kiss comes from Paul Haggis, also responsible for Million Dollar Baby and Crash—both films I disliked for their heavy handedness. Kiss, therefore, is a welcome surprise; a film about romantic relationships and infidelities that's so spot-on that I cried almost as much as the first time I saw Beaches.

The primary protagonist is Michael (Zach Braff), a genuinely good guy on the cusp of turning 30. He lives with his girlfriend Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), who is perfect for him, and the two have a liberal, easy way with each other that's happily romantic and companionable. Jenna's just gotten pregnant, but isn't really pushing for marriage. They seem to have their ducks in a row, but horrible things happen between them easily, believably, and nauseatingly quickly. Watching the relationship devolve gives one the distinctly horrifying realization that no one is safe, and that everything you secretly hope wouldn't be possible for your lover to ever do to you can come true (and vice versa), no matter how good you really do have it.

There is an ensemble of characters surrounding Jenna and Michael, mainly his three male friends in various states of relationship crises (Casey Affleck is particularly heartbreaking as Chris, a young father who loves his baby but is beaten down by his panicked and exhausted wife). Blythe Danner stands out in her performance as Jenna's dramatic mother, Anna, and Tom Wilkinson has some quietly touching moments as her father, Stephen, but the two of them really shine in the parenting scenes they share, when their seemingly disparate characters finally seem natural together. And Rachel Bilson, as Kim, a brazen young co-ed who in experimenting with her relatively new sexual power bites off more than she can chew, manages to carry off the most destructive role in the film without ultimately letting you hate her.

While The Last Kiss is unapologetically passionate and emotion-driven, it deftly avoids the painstaking schlock of Haggis' previous successes, inevitably the influence of the original film—hopefully an influence that will stick.

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