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The Last Kiss
Official site
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Producer: Domenico Procacci
Written by: Gabrile Muccino
Cast: Stefano Accorsi, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Stefanio Sandrelli, Marco Cocci, Pierfrancesco Favino, Sabrina Impacciotore, Regina Orioli, Giorgio Pasotti

Rating: out of 5

Recall your worst break-up, with all the unjustifiable whining, irrational resentments, jealousies and petulant pleas attendant. Now imagine reliving 115 minutes of such misery. Thus is The Last Kiss, the story of a bunch of bullshit artists whose relationships are entirely ripped from melodramatic confrontations from old-school soap operas, so unironic as to be positively pre-Douglas Sirk in their unwinking seriousness. Here, all the characters suffer from a chronic inability to distinguish between the serious and the trivial, the temporary irritant and true problems, and their response is to treat everything as an apocalyptic crisis, shrilling their way to catharsis.

Following roughly three parallel stories, writer/director Gabriele Muccino attempts to interweave different generations to demonstrate the same lesson three times over. Carlo (Accorsi), about to get married to pregnant girlfriend Giulia (Mezzogiorno), fears commitment and being tied down, and does what comes naturally to virile young Italian men in melodrama: He falls for an 18-year-old girl. Meanwhile, his college buddies, all mired in repetitive existences and meaningless jobs, plan to ride, in the most clichéd manner, off into the sunset—on a camper to a rugged, more manly existence. Finally, Giulia’s mother, Anna, (Sandrelli, trading in her status as a beauty in films like The Conformist for the realities of aging, her persona aging along with her character) decides, not for the first time, to leave her uncaring husband and strike out on her own, “living life to the fullest.”

It’s Anna who best represents the movie’s whole problem: Aspiring to a realistic and mature portrait of the disappointments and failings of long-term relationships, The Last Kiss revolves around characters who seem to have learned everything they know about treating their partner from watching only the shrillest, unhappiest break-ups of cinematic yore. They throw blunt objects at each other, they speak in grand clichés about eternal commitments and unbounded freedom, they even threaten each other with knives—anything rather than make a mature, fully thought through decision or—horrors—do something we haven’t seen in a movie before. Worse, they don’t do so because they’re genuinely confused and misguided, but because Muccino’s getting ready to present a moral: Long-term commitments are The Goal. And so Anna, after spouting grand rhetoric about “starting her life all over again” and similar nonsense, returns, tail between her legs, to her husband to settle in for another 30 years and a quiet, peaceful death (which, in fact, is specified as the goal). All the couples must come together, no matter how unhappy and divided, except for the college buddies, who actually do ride off into the sunset for an equally hackneyed ending.

Despite the unrelievedly over-the-top tone which characterizes the proceedings, The Last Kiss is an impressive technical achievement. The steadicam cinematography is dizzying, with ultra-long takes sending the camera all over the place, as elaborately choreographed wedding and birthday parties move in meticulously timed arrangements (though Muccino’s decision to not use overlapping sound makes it rather obvious at times that many are just waiting for their cue). The actors inhabit their stereotypes with vigor, giving all their lung power in service of a louder, more emotional world (as does the ceaseless score, which in the worst Hollywood fashion provides a reaction cue for every single moment, in the musical equivalent of a laugh track). Still, it’s ultimately wearying: If these characters were half as smart as their clothing, their behavior wouldn’t be so consistently false and shrill, which doesn’t have anything but the most trivial motivation. Failing completely on a human level, The Last Kiss remains one of the more watchably brisk moralistic imports of recent years.

—Vadim Risov


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