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The Shins DID change my life!!!

Zach Braff returns to the big screen with his latest film, ‘Last Kiss’

Relationships either work or they don’t.

If only it were that simple. However, as “The Last Kiss,” starring Zach Braff (“Garden State”), demonstrates, relationships are not black and white.

“The Last Kiss” is a rather accurate depiction of how relationships, under various circumstances and situations, actually work. There is no right or wrong distinctions to be found within this film. Just as in real life, things are complicated.

The film follows Michael (Braff), who finds himself on the brink of turning 30 with some serious commitment issues. Jenna (Jacinda Barrett, “Ladder 49”) is Michael’s pregnant girlfriend who is pushing for more solidity in their relationship. With a baby on the way, she wants to be married, buy a house and become a textbook-definition family.

Michael is forced to confront his commitment issues when he meets Kim (Rachel Bilson, “The OC”), a fun-loving but naïve college co-ed. Michael is tempted by his lust for Kim but also tormented by his commitments to his girlfriend and soon-to-be-born child.

Michael faces two options: the commitment and stability of remaining faithful to Jenna, or the youthful adventure of choosing Kim. How he wants to begin the next phase of his life is where indecision and complication enter into the situation.

If the film were to stop here and only focus on Michael’s decisions and the serious implications of these actions, sorting through the gray area would be rather simple.

“The Last Kiss” chooses not to stop there by adding a background cast of people who all have their own relationship issues.

Jenna’s parents, played by the impressive combination of Blythe Danner (“Meet the Fockers,” “Will and Grace”) and Tom Wilkinson (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose”), give the most heartfelt performance as a couple celebrating 30 years of marriage. On the surface, they appear to be the perfectly content image of stability.

However, it’s a different story once taken into the privacy of their bedroom. Anna (Danner) is extremely unhappy with the lack of affection and desire she finds in her psychoanalytical husband. Danner does an excellent job of portraying the complex insecurities of a middle-aged woman struggling to feel young and desirable.

The film also follows Michael’s group of friends, four men in different situations all confronting the fact that they are unhappy in what they see as dead-end lives. Chris (Casey Affleck), an unhappy husband, makes the shocking, yet not uncommon, confession that he thought having a child with his wife would make their relationship work. It doesn’t. Michael’s two other friends realize they are turning 30 alone and without many prospects in Wisconsin, where the movie is set. They plan their escape in a Winnebago.

Overall, the performances are predictable. The veterans, Danner and Wilkinson, give the most complete and believable portrayals. Barret, as Michael’s girlfriend, is also delightful as a refreshingly strong female character – especially when threatening Michael with a large butcher knife. Her reactions to Michael’s choices in the film come across as honest and relatable.

Bilson gives the most disappointing performance, resembling her character, Summer, on “The OC” She appeared flat and one-dimensional in a role that gave her many opportunities to portray the complexity of a girl who is quick to love, still trying to figure out the world and her role within it.

With one in two marriages currently ending in divorce, this film is realistic in showing that no relationship is perfect. The ending poses more questions than answers, pointing out that in the real world, solving one relationship issue doesn’t mean living happily ever after.

It gives hope in today’s world of drive-through chapels and online divorces that relationships can work, if you’re willing to work on them.

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