Movie Review: ‘Last Kiss’ gives love 2nd look

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    “Scrubs” star Zach Braff follows up his “Garden State” success with a story about love and the decisions that go into it in “The Last Kiss.”While many moviegoers will look for this film to be a sequel to “Garden State,” this story is much less quirky and more grown up.

    Braff plays Michael, a character whose life has turned out exactly as he planned and seemingly hoped for, a fact that now bores him and sets him off on a search for spontaneity and fun. Even the unexpected revelation that his girlfriend Jenna, played by Jacinda Barrett of “Ladder 49,” is pregnant with his baby is still not enough to surprise him, but it does provide the impetus for Michael to look for changes he so desires in his life.

    Although most people might be scared by the idea of having a baby before marriage, Michael is more frightened by the fact he is not unnerved by the impending birth. Meeting a young college coed, played by Rachel Bilson (“The OC”), Michael takes advantage of her obvious attraction to him and decides to create some of the excitement he wants.

    Casey Affleck (“Ocean’s Twelve”), Eric Christian Olsen (“Beerfest”), and Michael Weston (“Garden State”), co-star as Braff’s best friends who create a contrasting look into Michael’s life. Each of the four friends is at crossroads in their lives. Affleck plays a married man who must decide between staying unhappily married for his child or escape a loveless marriage. Olsen plays the stereotypical bachelor, and Weston plays a character whose heart has been broken by the one woman he has ever truly loved.

    At the beginning, Michael seems to be the only true happy-in-love character, but the four friends intertwining story lines of his friends emphasizes the monotony he is faced with in his relationship.

    The script, written by Paul Haggis, author of last year’s Academy Award winning movie “Crash,” explores further contrasts into Michael’s story line with the introduction of Jenna’s parents, played by Blythe Danner (“Meet the Fockers”), and Tom Wilkinson (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), who have been married more than 30 years and are going through many of the same problems facing Michael and Jenna’s three-year-old relationship.

    Just as with “Crash,” Haggis once again seems unable to fully grasp the message he is trying to convey in “The Last Kiss.” Although it is smartly written, the idea of whether love is truly open to forgiveness is never fully revealed in the movie.

    This movie is not for those who have a sugary view of love, but is instead, a realistic portrayal of the effects love can have on the human psyche. Some are unaffected by it, others are torn apart. But for many, especially Michael, love is a dull part of life, unlike this thought-provoking movie.