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Carlo's life is thrown into a tailspin when his longtime girlfriend Giulia announces she's pregnant. As Carlo faces up to his anxieties about adulthood, his buddies Paolo, Adriano and Alberto reluctantly grapple with their own responsibilities. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
'The Last Kiss' is a beautiful Italian film, a romantic comedy and drama told in multiple storylines reminiscent of 'Magnolia' or 'Short Cuts'. It is one of the best films ever to deal with twenty-something males who haven't really grown up and accepted the responsibility of an adult life, and also about the women who have to deal with them. Most of the men in this film have commitment-phobia. Babies are being had, weddings are taking place, apartments are being purchased, but all these men can think about is escape. They are planning on buying a beat up old van and traveling the world in search of an adventure. Anything will do, as long as it doesn't involve growing up, becoming an adult and assuming responsibility for the direction of their lives and relationships.
It sounds weighty and significant. Perhaps it is. But the movie is so effortless, lighthearted, energetic and funny that time seems to fly by. It is one of the most entertaining films of the year. It's no wonder that 'The Last Kiss' won so many Audience Awards at film festivals in 2002, including at Sundance. The film also became one of the biggest box office successes in European cinema history. This film, which Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called "Sex in the City with men", garnered tons of 3½ and 4 star reviews, hit dozens of Top Ten Lists, and will easily become a favorite for those who are lucky enough to see it.
The performances are all stellar. The primary couple in the film, supremely played by Stefano Accorsi (Carlo) and Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Giulia), are fascinating to watch. They are emotionally polar opposites at different stages in their lives. The film builds around this couple and the explosive crescendo that seems imminent from the opening scenes. Carlo is immature and irresponsible. Giulia is calm, methodical and assured in her wants and needs. She loves Carlo, despite his flaws, but tells him that the one thing she won't abide is infidelity. Needless to say, the temptations present themselves during the film and we get to watch one of the most explosive arguments in the history of cinema as Giulia has a melt down when she finds out the truth.
The film dances around to other storylines from time to time, but it always returns to the central couple. All the other vignettes are interesting but serve primarily as breathers and changes-of-pace. You won't be as invested in those characters as you will be with Carlo and Giulia. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is spectacular here. She bounces effortlessly between calm and rage, trust and jealousy, romantic and pragmatic. It is one of the best performances of the decade. Special note must also be given to a new Italian starlet named Martina Stella, who is vibrant and mesmerizing as the object of Carlo's lust. She plays a love-struck young girl named Francesca, who is so painfully unaware of life's cruel hardships and realities. Her naiveté and wide-eyed innocence makes it easy for us to understand why Carlo might stray. Martina Stella is a wonderful new talent that we should keep our eyes on over the next few years.
I pointed out the structural similarity to Paul Thomas Anderson's 1999 masterpiece, 'Magnolia'. However, there is more than just a passing resemblance. 'The Last Kiss' is obviously inspired by it's predecessor. It looks and sounds a great deal like that classic. The camera movement is energetic and dynamic. There are a ton of complex 'steadicam' scenes. The score is that anticipatory and frenetic string ensemble that allows us to flow from moment to moment as the editing shifts us from one storyline to another. In fact, the scores are so similar that I initially thought it had been borrowed. The way I see things, if you are going to emulate a film, you can't do much better than emulating 'Magnolia'.
This film has the ability to make you laugh and cry with the absolute recognition of your own life . There are so many scenes that will hit home. Virtually every viewer over the age of 25 will be able to see themselves, at some point in their life, manifested in one of these characters. It is a witty and observant script that deals truthfully and hysterically with the complexities of modern relationships. I think that is the main reason it has become a fan favorite.
The cinematography and lighting are first rate. These stunningly gorgeous Italian thespians are made even more resplendent than previously imaginable. Gabriele Muccino directs the film and seems to make every single shot count. You could take any still-frame from this movie and have a photograph to hang in an art gallery.
I've already mentioned the wonderful score, but I would also like to point out another lovely sound in this film... the Italian language. Never before have so many words been crammed into a two hour movie. It is a lovely language to behold. It sounds beautiful whether it is being whispered or screamed. I know it may seem a little meaningless to state such a thing, but I believe that a great film can be enjoyed with either the sound or the picture off. This film assuredly looks gorgeous, but it sounds even better!
There are many things to love about this film. Giovanna Mezzogiorno's performance is miraculous. The stories are poignantly truthful. The character arcs are rich and full and complete. The technical aspects of the film are immaculate. The resolution is satisfying and honest. You will cringe, you will laugh, you will be joyous and angry... this movie will take you on an emotional roller-coaster. You will almost feel Italian (If you aren't already). And the final few moments of the film will leave you smirking to yourself as you contemplate the resounding irony of it all. How cruel these directors can be!
'The Last Kiss' (L'Ultimo Bacio) is easily one of the best films of the year. I suggest you make a special effort to seek this film out... you won't regret it.
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