By cultural standards, Michael seemingly has everything going for him. On the cusp of 30, he's a successful architect and his beautiful girlfriend of three years is pregnant with his first child. In truth, he's miserable. He's convinced his life is over, that "there are no more surprises."
And he's the stable one in his hometown Wisconsin group of friends.
One of them, Kenny, is a free-spirited guy who loves to bed women but bolts at the first whiff of commitment. Another, Izzy, has just been dumped by his high school sweetheart. And pal Chris' marriage is crumbling under the pressures of parenthood.
Meanwhile, the one solid marriage he and girlfriend Jenna can point to (aside from a pair of ducks at the local pond) belongs to her parents. And when a secret is revealed that threatens even their union, Michael gets more scared about fully committing to Jenna, kids, and making a home together. Thus, he fans a flirtation with Kim, a 20-year-old college junior who thinks he's cute. But when he's caught in a lie on the night he goes out with her, he may just have lost the one thing in life that maybe matters to him most. If only he could decide.
In spite of lots of sex and nudity, and some cynical views of marriage and family, The Last Kiss works its way toward some positive statements about love, commitment and growing up. Several main characters come to the realization that being a mature person means making commitments, even when those promises might lead to a loss of perceived freedom. Forgiveness is championed, though shown to be difficult.
The film's wisest lines are delivered to Michael by Jenna's dad after he learns of Michael's infidelity. Michael protests that he still loves Jenna. Her dad scoffs, "What you feel only matters to you. It's what you do to those you say you love that matters."
At its core, marriage is a spiritual concept. And this film seems to want us to dismiss it. Men are to grow up in their relationships with women, it preaches, without suggesting they go all the way to committing until the parting of death.
It's hard to maintain our commitments when the emotions ebb and flow, when the kids come along and when they leave, when one spouse or the other "falters" (in the film's words) through a selfish season. But it's honoring the commitment to love wives and kids within marriage, to stick when it's hard, that separates men from boys.
At a bachelor party, two female strippers lie on top of each other naked in a hammock. Three encounters between Kenny and an equally sex-motivated woman include movement, sounds, varied positions and nearly full nudity. Another extended sex scene includes sensual dancing, groping, undressing, breast nudity, and sexual movement and sounds. Additional sexual content includes the grabbing of clothed breasts, a see-through wet blouse and sexual dialogue.
Just to be clear, considering the brevity of the previous paragraph: The necessary spareness of this description in no way reflects the extreme nature of The Last Kiss, which includes much more nudity and aggressively graphic sexual content than most of its talky relationship drama peers.
Other than a non-injury car accident, violence is limited to women slapping men during arguments and a jilted boyfriend punching his ex's new guy.
Crude or Profane Language
Swearing comes naturally to this Wisconsin tribe. In addition to five or so uses each of Jesus' and God's names for swearing, as many as 50 f-words are heard, often in a sexual context. Also uttered: a half-dozen uses each of the s-word and "b--ch," along with twice or three times as many uses of "a--" (often accompanied by "hole"). Other, milder profanities are also heard.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alcohol is a staple at parties, dinners and especially at a wedding, where most of the guys achieve varying stages of inebriation. One of the guys at the bachelor party appears to be smoking a joint.
Other Negative Elements
We keep hearing that 30 is the new 20, that this generation is waiting longer to grow up. But The Last Kiss, based on an award-winning Italian film, counters that 30 is actually the new 40. As one character suggests, "Life is moving so fast that people are freaking out way sooner than their parents did."
Either way, director Tony Goldwyn (Someone Like You) and screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) can be lauded for showing masculine immaturity for what it is: selfish, fearful and weak. Whether at 20, 30 or 40, most guys have struggled with the idea of trading independence for commitment, domestic responsibility for lost youth. We all wrestle with ourselves to avoid making damaging choices in search of excitement or escape from the predictable. But to hear Zach Braff's character give voice to those earnest doubts—with all the navel-gazing sincerity of, well, Zach Braff—reveals the distasteful truth for what it is.
Every person in the theater is clearly aware of what a jerk Michael is being while he self-rationalizes his way into infidelity. You get the sense at every step that even he would agree his choices are ugly (without yielding the right to indulge in temptation). And the consequences to himself and both the women involved are real and painful. He must finally heed the advice of an older man who, though flawed himself, understands that to love a woman is to do right by her, to honor your commitment, to keep going even when it's hard.
What's frustrating, then, is the filmmakers' determination to display graphic extramarital sex scenes as part of the package. It's almost as if they're saying, "See how great wanton sex can be; what a jerk you'd be to do this." Worse, the commitment of marriage itself is nearly discounted. Commit to the woman you love, sure. And commit to your children. But The Last Kiss suggests that the institution of marriage is disposable. In spite of the dad's great quote that "it's what you do for those you say you love that matters," love is still seen as a commitment you keep only until you run out of the feelings of love.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Zack Braff as Michael; Jacinda Barrett as Jenna; Rachel Bilson as Kim; Casey Affleck as Chris; Blythe Danner as Anna; Tom Wilkinson as Stephen
Tony Goldwyn (Someone Like You, A Walk on the Moon)
Christopher Lyon Christopher Lyon