Relationships run amok


"The Last Kiss" hovers somewhere between comedy and drama. For the most part, it expertly handles the terrain, except for a gutsy resolution that doesn’t quite work.

Michael (Zach Braff) has everything a guy could ask for: a great group of friends, a good job and a beautiful girlfriend named Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), who is going to have his baby. Like most guys, though, he finds a way to muck it up when he meets the beautiful Kim (Rachel Bilson) at a wedding. They go out on just one date, which is enough to jeopardize his relationship.

"The Last Kiss" is adapted from the Italian film "L’Ultimo bacio," which won the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance in 2002. Like most dram-coms (the preferred industry term these days), it tries to look at life realistically, with its funny and not-so-funny moments.

Although the film centers on Michael and his anxieties, it veers into ensemble territory. It seems everybody has issues. Friend Chris (Casey Affleck) is having difficulty adjusting to fatherhood. Hunky Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) seems to have found the perfect sex partner — until she mentions meeting her parents. And Jenna’s mom (the always amazing Blythe Danner) reveals she had an affair.

Working off a script by Oscar-winner Paul Haggis, director Tony Goldwyn (who played the scumbag friend in "Ghost") successfully maneuvers between happiness and sadness. Unlike many films of this genre, which are either mawkish or wear funny bones too eagerly, "The Last Kiss" hits just the right notes: The humor has a knowing quality and the drama is never too intense.

The movie also avoids pitfalls of other ensemble films, as different lives seem to intersect in the grand scheme of the universe. As we go from Michael’s problems to those of his friends, we see how everyone’s lives are connected in some way.

"The Last Kiss" only falters in its last 10 minutes, with a conclusion that is interesting but kind of leaves you hanging.

Braff couldn’t be more perfect as Michael, making us feel his angst. Philadelphia native Danner is wonderful, making a case for a Best Supporting Actress nod, which would be her first. The rest of the cast is also good, with Barrett as a standout.

"The Last Kiss" is the perfect date movie, provided your relationship is on solid ground.

The Last Kiss
Three reels out of four
In area theaters tomorrow

Recommended rental

Stick It
Available Tuesday

From the writer of "Bring It On," Jessica Bendinger’s "Stick It" is a serio-comic look at the world of competitive gymnastics. Missy Peregrym’s Haley Graham once walked out in the middle of a nationally televised competition. When she gets into trouble with the law, she is given a choice: Go to juvy or attend a camp run by tough-as-nails coach Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). Although Haley has a hard time getting with the program, she eventually straightens up and inspires the other girls.