Confession: I didn’t mind “Garden State” the first time I saw it. In fact, I almost enjoyed the college-age oriented montage of fancy camera shots, the 20-something angst, and the slow, emotional soundtrack following Zach Braff’s crush-worthy character. I’d also like to stress the phrase “first time,” because five minutes after my roommate popped in the DVD version, I was bored out of my mind and kicking myself for ever having admitted I thought it agreeable. This same feeling came flooding back as soon as the emo music cued the opening credits for “The Last Kiss” (Paramount Pictures), Braff’s latest film.
The Last Kiss is basically the sequel to “Garden State.” It’s not a bad movie; I’ve just seen it before. Braff narrates the movie as Michael, a 29-year-old architect on the verge of a life crisis. He has a good job, a lovely girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett), a steady group of friends, a baby on the way, and an unfortunate desire for a fresh element of surprise in his otherwise perfect life. The opportunity to act on his security anxiety presents itself in the seductive form of Kim (Rachel Bilson), a young, immature college girl he meets at a friend’s wedding. Michael’s flirtations with Kim eventually lead the movie to its emotional core- an examination of the breaking and mending points of relationships.
“The Last Kiss” offers a dramatic look at several less-than-perfect relationships with witty lines scattered throughout. The storyline itself is driving and solid enough, but becomes predictable and dull within the first few minutes of Braff’s appearance. The same types of comic ironies, emotional internal struggles, fancy camera angles and romantic pleas for forgiveness that characterized “Garden State” are recycled. Because the style is so similar to Braff’s last film, “The Last Kiss” quickly becomes tedious. Can Braff (or any of the supporting cast, for that matter) play any other character? Being slightly over 30 himself, hopefully he’ll resolve the crisis offered in faux-artsy, college-age films before it’s too late to escape their cinematic poverty.
If you liked “Garden State” and want to see it again, don’t hesitate to see “The Last Kiss.”