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Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis adapted Gabrielle Muccino’s Italian film L’Ultimo Bacio for director Tony Goldwyn in this superb remake that does an admirable job of navigating viewers through the often messy and sometimes brutally painful evolution and deterioration of relationships.
Although in one of several making-of-featurettes included on DreamWorks Home Entertainment’s brand-new Blu-ray version of the film, Haggis humbly described his job as essentially translating the film into English with the exception of one major different twist as a character in the American film admits to an indiscretion—one can’t help he’s belittling his material since there's nothing European about the work which still feels remarkably accurate three years later.
Kiss was sweetened by those involved who helped him during the arduous process of financing his upcoming Million Dollar Baby (eventually directed by Clint Eastwood) and Crash.
Scrubs character of John Dorian who is prone to fantasies, silliness and childlike naïveté-- Garden State's Zach Braff is excellent as our uncertain and admittedly selfish lead Michael, who at the start of the film faces three life-altering events. Namely these consist of the pregnancy of his long-time girlfriend Jacinda Barrett and the possible commitment issues that go along with it, his thirtieth birthday, and the beginning of a casual flirtation with a young, bright college student (The O.C.'s Rachel Bilson) whom he meets at a wedding that begins to make Michael wonder if he’s really ready to settle down.
And in answering that, he introduces us to a group of characters all struggling to make sense of their lives in an age where as Bilson’s character notes, “our metabolism” is faster and we’ve begun “to freak out way before our parents” did.
On a second viewing in fact-- it’s Danner and Wilkinson’s courage in showing the evolution of a marriage that’s reached (possibly one of several) breaking points that feels sharper than ever and their performances are both extremely brave-- and par for the course of the rest of the movie-- highly authentic.
Garden State, the wonderful soundtrack of Kiss helps make the admittedly dark, intense and sometimes just excruciatingly confrontational themes and moments a bit easier to bear although it’s probably not the best choice for a date movie or a companion feature for a low-key romantic evening in as this is the type of film that could cause an argument, despite raising some valid, mature, and accurate issues.
After all, even though as they sing in “As Time Goes By,” “a kiss is still a kiss,” it can mean two incredibly different things to each participant, since in this film and truer to life—going against the lyrics—a sigh isn’t just a sigh but a deeper indication of a unique perspective and one I longed to explore in greater detail.
The Last Kiss is still one of the braver and truer to life “quarter-life" and "mid-life" crisis works Hollywood has produced in years and one that works as a very welcome antidote to the endless string of films about middle-aged men who act like thirteen year old boys currently in vogue at the multiplex.
As producer Gary Lucchesi acknowledges in yet another behind the scenes extra that shares the last thoughts on the film by those involved, he says that he senses American audiences are yearning for more intimacy and more reality in works that feel a bit rawer.
Essentially, within moments you’ll need to punch up the muddied color by tweaking with the brightness or vivid settings on your television or player as well as raising the volume fairly high since the work is filled with intimate, whispery conversations and quiet confessions (that of course counteract the intense blow-up in your face arguments). Thus, a greater balance should have been achieved in the transfer from DVD to justify the price-tag and decision to move the work to Blu-ray without sharpening up the contrast of the image and up-and-down sound that had this reviewer reaching for her remote far too often, ultimately detracting from the overall cinematic experience.