In one of the key dramatic scenes in The Last Kiss (IMDB), the 30ish Michael (Zach Braff) confides that “I’ve been thinking about my life lately, and everything feels pretty planned out. There’s no more surprises.” This knowledge leaves Michael feeling as if his life–one that features a lovely pregnant girlfriend, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), a job as an architect, and an income that would allow him to purchase a home–is “in crisis.” At another point in the film, another character reflects that today’s accelerated culture requires us to grow up too quickly. But as A.O. Scott suggests in his review, Michael “behaves less like a man for whom adulthood is already a burden than like a child for whom maturity is a scary and seductive abstraction.” I’m not sure I’m faulting the film for exploring these questions of “arrested development,” but Michael’s plaintive remarks about his impending (?) adulthood left me feeling a bit perplexed and disappointed.
To be fair to the film, it is at least somewhat honest about the fallibility of romatic love. Michael acts on his pre-midlife crisis by pursuing a flirtation with Kim (Rachel Bilson), a college student he meets at a wedding. At the same time, Michael’s friends are confronting similar crises, with Chris (Casey Affleck) finding himself a new father in a loveless marriage and Izzy dealing with an unpleasant break-up and Kenny refusing to grow up by engaging in as much non-monogomous sex as possible. But the stories never seemed quite as profound as the script seemed to believe they were, as this Village Voice review suggests, and I found it difficult to bring myself to care very much about any of the characters.
Much of my disappointment in the film likely derives from what felt like a relatively thin screenplay by Paul Haggis (of Crash fame or infamy), one that didn’t seem to take much interest at all in its female characters. Jenna, Michael’s longtime girlfriend, seems little more than a foil for allowing Michael to work through his angst about growing up, with her life outside their relationship left virtually unexplored. In fact, despite several mentions of her dissertation, we never learn what her dissertation is about. There are far worse ways to spend a night at the multiplex than seeing The Last Kiss, but I don’t think this film offers much to explain Michael’s malaise and offers even less to explain why someone like Jenna should put up with him in the first place.