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THE LAST KISS
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Casey Affleck, Rachel Bilson, Michael Weston, Eric Christian Olsen, Marley Shelton, Harold Ramis, Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Dreamworks
Features: See Review
Length: 103 Minutes
Release Date: April 14, 2009

“What you feel only matters to you. It’s what you do to the people you say you love, that’s what matters. It’s the only thing that counts.”

Film ****

Few mainstream movies are capable of delivering a level of pure honesty and realism. The Last Kiss is the rarest of exceptions. Not since Closer have I seen a much more uncompromising and truthful take on life, love and all the complicated baggage that comes along in the process. It’s a love story involving realistic characters that don’t always make the right choices. Thankfully, it’s also a love story that doesn’t take the easy route like so many films in the genre.

It may be a remake, of the 2001 Italian film L’Ultimo Bacio, but screenwriter Paul Haggis and director Tony Goldwyn have crafted such a fantastic piece with multiple characters that will stick with you long after the movie is over. What’s more, the cast is nothing short of spectacular and the soundtrack is among the best arrangement of songs to be heard in any recent film. The Last Kiss is one more addition to the list of the Best Films of 2006.

At the heart of the story is Michael (Zach Braff), who seems to have everything a guy in his late 20s could possibly want in life. He has a beautiful woman, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), at his side. He has a successful job as an architect, and remains close friends with the guys he’s known since childhood.

But it’s the mere fact that Michael is about to officially become an adult as well as a father, as Jenna is pregnant, he comes to realize that his life is completely planned out right in front of him. With marriage in store, as well as the agony of turning thirty, there are no more surprises in store for him.

When attending the wedding of a friend, Michael sees something that triggers his interest in the form of the young, beautiful and flirtatious Kim (Rachel Bilson). She takes a liking to him, and he’s tempted to give in to a possible fling. Something in her makes him feel younger and free, a feeling that is clearly impossible to let go of. Can’t I ever relate?

And Michael’s friends are going through their own personal life crises. Izzy (Michael Weston) has just gone through an intense breakup with his high school sweetheart, and refuses to accept the fact of the matter. Chris (Casey Affleck), who already has a child, is experiencing a nightmarish relationship of his own, which he wants to end at the benefit of the kid but is afraid to. And Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) goes through women like a sock drawer.

But The Last Kiss isn’t just a love story reflecting on 20 and 30-somethings, as the film also focuses on the downfall of an older couple. Jenna’s parents, Anna (Blythe Danner) and Stephen (Tom Wilkinson). What seems to be a perfect, long-lasting marriage is completely the opposite. Anna, having long felt ignored emotionally by her husband, confesses to an act of adultery and moves out.

I won't go into detail as to what kinds of choices Michael makes in the movie, but you will be surprised by how the story plays out. This is far from your typical mainstream romance movie. This is as honest a story about relationships can get. It also isn't afraid to illustrate how foolish us guys can be in such situations. Yep, I said it...we are foolish morons who don't know what we're doing most of the time. Guys can really learn from this film and I would say how...but that would mean I'd have to reveal crucial plot info.

And the film concludes with one of the strongest scenes I’ve seen in any love story. Without giving much away, I’ll say that the scene involves Michael struggling in the most amazing way to save what he has. It’s a poetic moment that struck a personal note with me. If I was in his shoes, it’s the exact same thing I would do.

And like such recent great films as Garden State and Elizabethtown, The Last Kiss features an amazing soundtrack, with songs that really define the moments in which they play. The film opens with the upbeat Snow Patrol song “Chocolate”, and such songs as “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap and “Warning Sign” by Coldplay are perfect selections for the scenes they play in. Credit must go Zach Braff’s way. In addition to being a fantastic leading man, he has a unique ear for music. He produced the soundtrack for his film Garden State and he did the same duties with this film.

The Last Kiss is a film of pure honesty and heart. It’s a morality story that can serve as something helpful for couples entering a rough territory, I think. With outstanding performances from Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett and the rest of the amazing cast, fantastic directing from Tony Goldwyn, terrific music and a richly written screenplay all blend to make this one of the finest films 2006 has to offer.

Video ***1/2

This marks one of the few instances where the overall video quality of a Blu-ray release manages not to surpass that of the original DVD. There are a few moments during several early scenes where I noticed a slight bit of softness in scenes I remember appearing flawless on the DVD, which contained a thoroughly flawless picture. However, the 1080p eventually delivers a very strong looking presentation. Color palettes are particularly beautiful in many scenes, and the overall image detail is rich and amazing.

Audio ***1/2

However, I can certainly say that the Blu-ray has definitely provided a terrific sound upgrade. The standard DVD was impressive enough, being that this was pretty much a dialogue oriented piece. With the TrueHD mix, I noticed many superb sounding differences in several sequences as far as background sound is concerned. But the one area of the presentation, and the one aspect I was really looking forward to in the Blu-ray, was the performance of the songs on the soundtrack. Sure enough, each song sounded nothing short of fantastic, especially Coldplay’s “Warning Sign”.

Features ****

No big changes in the extras field on this Dreamworks release, which is a good thing since this was already stacked with a perfect bonus list! We have two excellent commentary tracks; the first with director Tony Goldwyn and star Zach Braff, and the second is a most fun listen with Goldwyn, Braff and fellow cast members Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson, Michael Weston and Eric Christian Olsen. Also included are four behind the scenes featurettes; “Filmmakers’ Perspective”, “Getting Together”, “Behind Our Favorite Scenes”, and “Final Thoughts”. Rounding out the extras are Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel, a music video for the Cary Brothers song “Ride”, a Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

There’s the standard gooey love story and then there’s The Last Kiss. It’s a film with a real honest view of what it’s like to experience love crises as you enter the first years of true adulthood. It’s one of the best films of 2006 and everyone who appreciates a truthful story should see it immediately!

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