Last Kiss, the - Wet and Sloppy
| Paul Haggis is the king of boiled down emotion. The Oscar winning writer of Crash likes to reduce an idea down to its simplest form and then crank it up to full blast. Maybe he thinks this is about “getting real” but it couldn’t be farther from that. Instead, his work feels forced and oddly detached from reality.
In Crash Haggis’ characters were all one note clichés who walked into a scene, immediately started espousing racism and then experienced some profound and unbelievably dramatic life experience which teaches them something “real.”
In Last Kiss, the writer’s adaptation of Gabriele Muccino’s Italian screenplay L'ultimo bacio, the characters don’t fare much better. Each one is introduced in a microsecond and immediately go from 0 to 60 on the emotion scale. Haggis writes in absolutes, blacks and whites, binaries. Characters get to be happy or angry, miserable or rapturous. There is no in between for Haggis, no shades of grey, no subtly at all to his work.
When you write like this, and it really can’t be described as anything less than laziness, you forego creating real or original characters and instead employ stock caricatures where the real people are supposed to be. When you need your characters to be the poster children for whatever neurosis or social phenomenon they are representing they can’t be more than two dimensional. When you are too lazy to write a real character, take the time to allow the audience to get to know that character, make us believe that they are feeling something real, you have to use tricks. You have to give us signals of who the character is supposed to be so that we can insert our preconceived ideas into the film.
In this way you don’t challenge your audience. You don’t ask them to think about anything. Instead we are simply assured about our own assumptions. We nod appreciatively as the personas on screen do exactly as we think they will. This kind of story telling is either lulling us into a false sense of security about our own understanding of the world around us or it is just too damn lazy to do the work for us. It doesn’t offer us anything new, it just relies on what we think we already know.
Therefore, The Last Kiss is pretending to be a story about coming of age in the post-modern era but really it’s just feigning its attempt. It just throws a litany of clichés or common ideas about what that means at its audience. It asks us to look how deep it is being by repeating oft repeated ideas.
The Last Kiss has a wonderful cast but they can’t pull it off. They are so hindered by the commonness of the script that they can’t make anything special out of it. I know it’s not a fair comparison but only 2 years after Zach Braff succeeded so thoroughly with Garden State, a film that treads similar territory to this film but actually succeeds in creating something original, it is hard to understand why he would come down to this level with The Last Kiss.
Braff makes the mistake of kissing the wrong girl in this flick. Don’t make the same mistake as this, turn your cheek away from this kiss. You will only regret it otherwise.