The Last Kiss (2001) Movie Review

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Watching The Last Kiss is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've had in a movie theater since I worked at a multiplex and a girl I had a severe crush in high school saw me in my nerd uniform of a sleeveless sweater and clip-on tie. [Oh Pete, you rake, you! - Ed.]

At least that encounter lasted no more than a minute. For nearly two hours in The Last Kiss, aimless characters bitch, moan, and argue about how their lives stink. Doors are slammed, tears are shed, and immaturity is flaunted about like a homecoming banner. Almost every character deserves to have their head dunked in a bucket of ice water. The number of self-inflected drama fits and crying jags makes this movie feel more like a non-stop cry for attention, than an attempt at any kind of satisfying entertainment.

This Italian drama brings together nearly a dozen characters, most of who are in their late 20s and early 30s. The central couple is Carlo (Stefano Accorsi) and Giulia (the stunning Giovanna Mezzogiorno), who are expecting a baby. Though they've been together for years, the news rearranges Carlo's world and soon he gets his priorities and senses confused by an infatuated high school beauty (Martina Stella).

Meanwhile, Carlo's pack of loser friends has their own set of problems, which makes their plans to leave town and travel the world difficult to carry out. Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) is falling out of love with his role as wife and new father. Paolo (Claudio Santamaria) wants out of the family business, but he can't confront his dying father or get over his former girlfriend. As for Alberto (Pierfrancesco Favino), he seems content to sleep with an array of beautiful women and smoke enough pot for several Cheech and Chong movies. The older folks have their problems too, specifically Giulia's mother (Stefania Sandrelli) who is jealous of her daughter's looks and of being stuck in what appears to be a boring, passionless marriage.

This is certainly not the first time that a movie has examined domestic misery or young adult ennui. The Last Picture Show, American Beauty, and even the underrated Beautiful Girls come to my mind. But at least those movies clued us into the source of the problem and turned it into something you wanted to watch. Even if you didn't sympathize with Kevin Spacey's last attempt at getting his soul back or Timothy Hutton's near dalliance with Natalie Portman, at least you understood their intentions. You might even have laughed or cheered in the process.

In The Last Kiss, I'm not sure why anything happens. The characters get tossed into their misery with little build-up, and with so many people needing attention, writer/director Gabriele Muccino never gets to the "ah-ha" stage of discovery that this kind of movie needs. Instead, the men mostly come across as jerks and the women either loyally take the abuse or fly off the handle. You never feel involved. Are the characters supposed to be this callow? Is this an examination of marriage and relationships like the recent gems Monsoon Wedding or Late Marriage? Did Carlo, Adriano, and the rest of the gang even talk to their partners (or each other) earlier about the possible problems in taking their relationships to the next level? Are there any marriage counselors in Italy?

Some people like this movie, as it was a big winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival. But here's a telling point. (Spoiler ahead!) At the end, when most of the characters end up doing what they want, I didn't share in that happiness. They hadn't learned enough for them to earn that ending, but instead were rewarded for being selfish morons. Fans might say that the finale is ironic in that freedom and happiness isn't always grabbed by those blessed with humility and generosity. Maybe so, but the lesson doesn't have to be taught in such a grating, annoying manner.

Aka L'Ultimo Bacio.

No smooch for you!

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The Last Kiss (2001) Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, 2001

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