I was told The Last Kiss was a terrible movie by nearly everyone I knew. Unfortunately, I do not agree. I thought this movie was remarkable in the fact that the women were far from being unreasonable, well, maybe with the exception of Jenna’s mother. In addition to great female roles, I thought it was one of the few movies that did not treat cheating with the glorification, acceptance, or cavalier attitude which many other relationship movies are guilty.
Jenna was a great female character. She was not crazy. And when Jenna was crazy, she completely within her rights to be so. In fact, she would have been a complete pushover otherwise. She was not irrational. She did not speculate and guess the way “other women do in other movies” “wrongly accusing” her man. She asked questions and gave him a chance. She was great. She was not the power hungry dominatrix type, nor was she the needy naive perpetually vulnerable type. She was not a cliche, but a real woman who knows herself, what she wants, and what she deserves.
Lisa, Casey Affleck’s wife was great too. She was clearly overwhelmed with the job of being a new mother. Affleck’s character never seemed to be helping out which was her main source of frustration. She realized they had problems and promised to work harder together on their problems. However, he decided to peace out, anyway, and Lisa did not beg him back. She had self-respect. She opened the door and allowed him his way. She did not try to guilt trip him into staying. She didn’t pull any weird tricks to make him stay. She let him go with a nice clean break.
Even the awful 20 year old college girl, Kim, wasn’t an unhinged irrational hormonal wacko, as we are so often portrayed. She was simply stupid. That’s all – no more, no less.
Danielle, Kenny’s new lover, was very cool. They lived on the same wavelength completely compatible with the same sexual lifestyle. Somehow we knew Kenny was the one to blame when he chickened out on meeting her parents. He never gave them a chance. They might have been as cool as she was. He never would have known.
As for Jenna parents, I don’t know much about mid life crises, because my parents do not seem to be having one. Awesome. Kudos to them. So I’m just going to ignore Jenna’s parents in the movie.
However, I do know quite a bit about the mid 20s crisis.
Sure, Zach Braff’s character didn’t make a good choice. Sure, his friends are losers. But, guess what? They learn from their mistakes. The character either learns they have limits, or compromise to re-organize the situation, or try again to fix the situation with new resolve. The characters have agency. On the flip side, they also suffer the consequences of their actions. It’s not a movie where stuff just happens to the characters and they go along with the flow.
Not only was responsibility a virtue to be upheld in this film rather than exonerated or dismissed as not being “true to oneself,” the movie treated cheating with the gravity it warrants (Remember, I don’t know how to talk about Jenna’s parents. They are of a different generation where cheating is more often than not tolerated and rarely spoken of. So clearly, they have a ton of problems to be resolved in The Last Kiss 2! [As if.]). Braff’s character was punished egregiously, yet appropriately. And more importantly by the end, he learned, was sincerely sorry and paid his penance. In the end, you trusted he wouldn’t cheat again.
Even though this movie wasn’t written from a female perspective. The possibility of identifying with the situations of the female characters has great resonance for female viewers. First off, the female characters covered a wider range of women than most films would or do, which is quite rare. The female characters were not the virgin or whore. They were thinking individuals with straightforward clear rational ways. They were strong without being overbearing. Their actions were justified. None manipulated their husband or boyfriend’s behaviour. None of that typical crying crazy lady crap was written into their characters, which is refreshing and consoling.
Turns out I am not crazy after all.