The Last Kiss

2002, Movie, R, 114 mins


Four friends, approaching their 30th birthdays and desperately clinging to the footloose dreams of youth, are plunged into relationship crises precipitated by the marriage of a fifth, Marco (Pierfrancesco Favino). Paolo (Claudio Santamaria) is obsessed with the ex-girlfriend who dumped him and guilt-ridden because he doesn't want to take over his dying father's religious-articles business. Dread-locked Alberto (Marco Cocci), who once wanted to work with Greenpeace, has settled for soul-destroying record company gigs and relentless womanizing. Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) is living with the tart-tongued Livia (Sabrina Impacciatore) and chafing at the responsibilities of new fatherhood. And Carlo (Stefano Accorsi), Adriano's coworker at a high-pressure ad agency, panics when Giulia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), his girlfriend of three years, gets pregnant. The four fantasize about sailing around the world, and when that dream is dashed, shift their focus to buying a used camper and driving until the road ends. Meanwhile, Carlo plunges into a dangerous flirtation with Francesca (Martina Stella), a dewy high-school heartbreaker he meets at Marco's wedding. Even Giulia's mother, fading beauty Anna (Stefania Sandrelli) is restless; she walks out on Emilio (Luigi Diberti), her husband of three decades, in search of a last chance at revitalizing romance. Gabriele Muccino's comic melodrama, which was a huge hit in Italy, is clearly conceived in the tradition of bittersweet farces like DIVORCE, ITALIAN STYLE (1962) and nimbly sidesteps the pitfalls inherent in stories about perpetual adolescents resisting maturity with every ounce of their strength. The men's panicky rejection of adult responsibility is infuriating but clearly rooted in their fears of becoming like Giulia's quietly unhappy father or Paolo's worked-to-death father and uncle. And the women are largely spared the taint of shrewishness so often used to excuse feckless male behavior; the exception, Livia, is a termagant because that's the way she is, not because women are by nature castrating bitches. Anna's doomed attempt to recapture her lost youth and squandered opportunities is depicted with great gentleness — her reunion with her younger ex-lover, Eugenio (Sergio Castellitto), is quietly heartbreaking — and even teenage seductress Francesca, with her girly appointment book and her earnest devotion to Herman Hesse's Siddartha, is permitted moments of surprising depth. Even the film's ironic ending is deftly handled, its cynicism is tempered by a certain rueful wisdom. (In Italian, with English subtitles.) leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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