Saturday, August 19, 2006
Ciao Wisconsin! ‘The Last Kiss’ travels well to Mid-America
Love Italian style is not something that translates well to American storytelling. Roman machismo and its constant companion, an insatiable libido, remain misunderstood. The Italian women who forgive their philandering partners are often seen as weak and co-dependent. The 2002 Italian film “l’Ultimo Bacio” (“The Last Kiss”) portrayed the Latin man with his complexity intact courtesy of its tale of an Italian thirty-something who cheats on his pregnant girlfriend only to see the error of his ways. With believable heartache and well-placed laughs, “l’Ultimo Bacio” was another foreign-language film deserving of crowds ten times larger than what trickled through art house doors.
Filmmaker Tony Goldwyn and screenwriter Paul Haggis adapt “l’Ultimo Bacio” and transplant it to Madison, Wisconsin. What’s surprising about Hollywood’s “The Last Kiss” is how well Italian machismo transforms into typical American selfishness and upper Middle Class angst.
The core story is the same. A young man, Michael (Zach Braff) grows nervous about becoming a father with his live-in lover (Jacinda Barrett). His release from anxiety comes in the form of a pretty University of Wisconsin student, Kim (Rachel Bilson). In the original movie, the fling was an 18-year-old but that’s too much of an age gap for American audiences.
Michael’s gang of goofball buddies, all unlucky in love to some extant, provides much of the humor. But the heart of the story lies in whether Michael can get back what once scared him.
The laundry list of foreign-language classics butchered by Hollywood filmmakers is long. “The Last Kiss” is a warm, fizzy exception; the perfect fall film for wiping away summer blockbusters. Its opening is still weeks away; so there’s plenty of time to say more about this likable film.