Caught in the middle
Abbey screens riveting American version of ?The Last Kiss?

SideStory: Just the Facts


by Judith Reynolds

• “The Last Kiss,” now at the Abbey Theatre, director Tony Goldwyn brings contemporary relevance to a universal quandary: How do we overcome the selfishness of youth and enter the realm of maturity? And how long does it take?

The murky, post-college years are particularly “untidy,” to borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, acutely crisis-ridden. For the hardy, the big chill may be a challenge, but it can also have a numbing effect. That’s the case for Michael (Zack Braff). An architect on his way up the corporate ladder, he and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), his girlfriend of three years, will soon have a baby. But Michael is toxically resistant to marriage. His general confusion and persistent doubt lead to a disastrous mistake. And therein lies the drama.

Michael is not alone, however. The brilliance of “Kiss” is that all the characters, not just the protagonist, confront the issues of compromise and commitment differently. Like the Oscar-winning ensemble film, “Crash,” (also written by Paul Haggis), “Kiss” concentrates on a complex slice of American life.

The post-college milieu requires a college town. In this case it’s Madison, Wisc., where the opening scene immediately outlines the central dilemma. Rising from a long, ground-level shot of people crossing a crowded downtown street, we see Michael and Jenna trapped in traffic. Paralyzed on Main Street America, they discuss their situation. Michael’s doubts are registered quickly as his wayward eye wanders.

He’s not the only one stuck in the traffic of life: so are his potential in-laws, his paramour, his three buddies (friends from childhood) and their various romantic involvements. Sounds like a Dickensian cast with a high probability of confusion. But Haggis’ script and Goldwyn’s pacing and elegant scene shaping manage to keep all the story lines intact and moving forward.

After that smart opening shot, a straight narrative evolves out of two key scenes: the pregnancy announcement to the parents and a peer wedding. Each scene holds innumerable possibilities. Michael’s deep-seated fear and reluctance to leave bachelor freedom echoes among his friends like reverberating thunder. At first Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) finds the perfect woman, a hot babe who only wants sex, no commitments, and definitely no children. When the wind changes, one of the film’s best comic moments blows

in. After being dumped, Izzy (Michael Weston) feels lost, dazed and yearning for escape. The only buddy to have taken the plunge, Chris (Casey Affleck), regrets it, and it’s painful to see why.

Michael challenges Jenna to show him three marriages that are healthy and vibrant. That collapses when even her parents’ marriage crashes (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson). It isn’t just the 20-somethings that are headed for concrete barriers.

Solid performances by the ensemble help to convincingly weave the storylines together. The structural fabric is tight and waterproof. There’s no sentimentality here, and the confrontations are big and direct. Like “Green Street Hooligans” earlier this year at the Abbey, “Kiss” offers a male view of the relationship universe. It would be a wise choice for the Chick Flick calendar.

The American version is a remake of the 2001 Italian film, “L’Ultimo Bacio.” In that work, Director Gabriele Muccino set a number of different markers. He gave Carlo, his hero, a career in advertising. He also gave Carlo Francesca, a savvy, sexually active, high-school girl as a mistress. The American version is more politically correct. Francesca’s counterpart, Kim (Rachel Bilson), is a music major at the University of Wisconsin. And to the film’s credit, Kim has more than seductive charm. She’s also desperate and has her own set of problems. In a few brief scenes, even “the other woman” emerges as one more human being slogging through life trying to find both a mate and meaning. •

The American version is a remake of the 2001 Italian film, “L’Ultimo Bacio.” In that work, Director Gabriele Muccino set a number of different markers. He gave Carlo, his hero, a career in advertising. He also gave Carlo Francesca, a savvy, sexually active, high-school girl as a mistress. The American version is more politically correct. Francesca’s counterpart, Kim (Rachel Bilson), is a music major at the University of Wisconsin. And to the film’s credit, Kim has more than seductive charm. She’s also desperate and has her own set of problems. In a few brief scenes, even “the other woman” emerges as one more human being slogging through life trying to find both a mate and meaning. •

by Judith Reynolds

• “The Last Kiss,” now at the Abbey Theatre, director Tony Goldwyn brings contemporary relevance to a universal quandary: How do we overcome the selfishness of youth and enter the realm of maturity? And how long does it take?

The murky, post-college years are particularly “untidy,” to borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, acutely crisis-ridden. For the hardy, the big chill may be a challenge, but it can also have a numbing effect. That’s the case for Michael (Zack Braff). An architect on his way up the corporate ladder, he and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), his girlfriend of three years, will soon have a baby. But Michael is toxically resistant to marriage. His general confusion and persistent doubt lead to a disastrous mistake. And therein lies the drama.

Michael is not alone, however. The brilliance of “Kiss” is that all the characters, not just the protagonist, confront the issues of compromise and commitment differently. Like the Oscar-winning ensemble film, “Crash,” (also written by Paul Haggis), “Kiss” concentrates on a complex slice of American life.

The post-college milieu requires a college town. In this case it’s Madison, Wisc., where the opening scene immediately outlines the central dilemma. Rising from a long, ground-level shot of people crossing a crowded downtown street, we see Michael and Jenna trapped in traffic. Paralyzed on Main Street America, they discuss their situation. Michael’s doubts are registered quickly as his wayward eye wanders.

He’s not the only one stuck in the traffic of life: so are his potential in-laws, his paramour, his three buddies (friends from childhood) and their various romantic involvements. Sounds like a Dickensian cast with a high probability of confusion. But Haggis’ script and Goldwyn’s pacing and elegant scene shaping manage to keep all the story lines intact and moving forward.

After that smart opening shot, a straight narrative evolves out of two key scenes: the pregnancy announcement to the parents and a peer wedding. Each scene holds innumerable possibilities. Michael’s deep-seated fear and reluctance to leave bachelor freedom echoes among his friends like reverberating thunder. At first Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) finds the perfect woman, a hot babe who only wants sex, no commitments, and definitely no children. When the wind changes, one of the film’s best comic moments blows in. After being dumped, Izzy (Michael Weston) feels lost, dazed and yearning for escape. The only buddy to have taken the plunge, Chris (Casey Affleck), regrets it, and it’s painful to see why.

Michael challenges Jenna to show him three marriages that are healthy and vibrant. That collapses when even her parents’ marriage crashes (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson). It isn’t just the 20-somethings that are headed for concrete barriers.

Solid performances by the ensemble help to convincingly weave the storylines together. The structural fabric is tight and waterproof. There’s no sentimentality here, and the confrontations are big and direct. Like “Green Street Hooligans” earlier this year at the Abbey, “Kiss” offers a male view of the relationship universe. It would be a wise choice for the Chick Flick calendar.

The American version is a remake of the 2001 Italian film, “L’Ultimo Bacio.” In that work, Director Gabriele Muccino set a number of different markers. He gave Carlo, his hero, a career in advertising. He also gave Carlo Francesca, a savvy, sexually active, high-school girl as a mistress. The American version is more politically correct. Francesca’s counterpart, Kim (Rachel Bilson), is a music major at the University of Wisconsin. And to the film’s credit, Kim has more than seductive charm. She’s also desperate and has her own set of problems. In a few brief scenes, even “the other woman” emerges as one more human being slogging through life trying to find both a mate and meaning. •

 

 

In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners
 

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale