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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

seen it! *yawn* Can we hope this will be the last kiss with the gridiron gang?

Naw, probably not. Sports flicks and romantic dramedies are way too successful for them to ever go away. But couldn’t they strive for a tad more originality, a slightly different perspective? Isn’t there anything new to be said about the power of team sports to buck up kids’ self-esteem or about how men get scared about committing to relationships? Clichés become clichés because they work, because there’s some truth in them, but: Come. On. We’ve seen this all before. Even if you never see Gridiron Gang or The Last Kiss, you can rest assured that you’ve already seen them.

God, I’m so bored with movies this week. (Well, with the studio movies, I mean.) I know it’s not really fair. I know it’s my problem cuz I see waaaay too many movies, and so I’ve seen it all too many times already — I know that if I were the kind of person who sees only two movies a year, who hasn’t already seen the ten trillion iterations of these same ideas, I’d be in love with Gridiron and Kiss, because they both do what they do very well. I know there’s nothing actually wrong with either film… except that they exist at points in the movie continuum that are already overcrowded with their fraternal twins. “Predictable” isn’t quite the word for either film, because even though the word applies to both, “predictable” implies a kind of tediousness that ruins a movie, and I can’t say that that is the case with either movie: I knew that Zach Braff’s getting-cold-relationship-feet guy in The Last Kiss was gonna stray in pretty much the way he did, and I knew that the Rock’s juvenile delinquent prison football team in Gridiron Gang was gonna make it to the big playoffs pretty much the way they did, but I enjoyed both movies anyway, if in a distant kind of way. They’re… fine. Which is damning with faint praise. I want movies to excite me. I want movies to surprise me. I want movies to make me see in retrospect that their outcomes were obvious but be smart enough, original enough to keep me from realizing that while they’re in progress.

And, you know, it’s not that there isn’t much to like in both films. Braff is an absolutely charming screen presence, and redeems a should-be hateable character in Kiss, makes you like him in spite of the fact that he’s a complete asshole. You want to smack him for being such an enormous jerk, a guy who screws around on his pregnant longtime girlfriend, a woman he loves dearly, just because he’s scared… But you stick with him through his shit, and Braff makes him sympathetic, in a pathetic kind of way. And the Rock: boy, he’s really quite affecting as a regular kinda guy who wants to help seemingly helpless kids, and does it the only way he knows how: by teaching them how to play football, by forging them into a true team. That’s cool, of course — the world needs more people not giving up on people everyone else has given up on. But why couldn’t it not give up on people everyone has given up on in a slightly unusual way?

I can’t say that I’m looking for Great Art out of my movies — I’m not. I’m just looking to be diverted. But like any other kind of drug, the more you take, the more you need to get that same high. The Last Kiss and Gridiron Gang just can’t do it for me, though I can appreciate full well that they might for someone else with a lower tolerance for difference. I need a bit of novelty in my movies, and I’ve doomed myself: the more movies I see in my quest for that movie high, the harder I’ve made it on myself to get the satisfaction I need.

Fortunately, last night I saw an extraordinary not-Hollywood movie, The Last King of Scotland. But that’s a rave for another day…

Gridiron Gang
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers
rated PG-13 for some startling scenes of violence, mature thematic material and language
official site | IMDB

The Last Kiss
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics
rated R for sexuality, nudity and language
official site | IMDB

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  • Drave

    I actually think the director of The Last Kiss really missed out on a great opportunity to have the movie leave a very different (and much more thoughtful) taste in the mouths of the viewers. You know that long, mournful shot from the trailer, the one of Zach Braff slumped against the front door while the camera pulls back? I would have rolled the credits right after that shot. I think the director was on the right track ending it when he did, before things were completely resolved, but he could have taken it further. I am sure the intent was for us to not know whether or not she took him back; just for us to know that she decided to hear him out. I would have liked it to be a little more ambiguous, because I think the majority of moviegoers are going to fill in the blank with a definite happy ending.

    I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, possibly because I have seen very few romantic comedies this year. I definitely found it far less predictable than it could have been. Let’s face it, we’ve seen too many movies about a man or woman teetering on the edge of commitment, who is then tempted by a Free Spirit who makes them realize that the plan they had was not what they really wanted, and that it was crushing their soul, blah blah blah. I always end up feeling sorry for the stable, healthy, long-term partner that gets left in the dust. I feel like The Last Kiss lined up several of the most realistic possible outcomes and then chose one of the least fashionable ones.

    I really liked that the “free spirit” was not so much a wise soul embracing her child-like joy in life, as an immature, manipulative, moderately fucked-up kid with serious self-esteem issues. Not to say Zach’s character is at all blameless. He makes several huge mistakes, and he deserves what he gets. (Although maybe not the knife-waving!) Still, it tickled me that his reaction was not to be taught a valuable lesson on enjoying life from this perky little pixie stick, but to sort of say “Hey, if this is the alternative, growing up looks pretty good to me.” I may not respect his choices, but I do have to give him points for constantly acknowledging what a cockmonkey he is being.

  • I think seeing a lot of movies does seem to make it so easy for us to see “the man behind the curtain” I think I would have loved Gridiron Gang and The LAst Kiss a lot better if I was living in a cultural desert. The thing is, most of these filmakers also have seen a lot of movies as well and probably share our sentiments. I go to movies now not quite expecting disappointment, but I just sit there without much hope of being dazzled. The only dazzling that goes on seems to be the cheap parlor tricks of CGI.

    The thing is, it has to matter. Make a cliche, but make it matter. Create characters that come alive and interact and have real problems, burdens, and adversity and you have a masterpiece in the making. Create eye candy that looks pretty but has no substance and it is a recipe for a quick buck, but will have no staying power.

    As far as the non original themes went for these two movies: they do a fair enough job at it, but it could have been a lot better.

  • Will

    I was dragged to Last Kiss, I would have prefered hollywoodland, but the woman wasn’t interested so I went expecting something along the lines of Garden State and while it wasn’t, and the first half of the film was pretty standard stuff, I thought the acting and chemistry between Braff and Barrett was awesome and I think the “funny” moments were kind of self interperted because what some people in the theater thought was funny some didn’t, which kind of made for slightly wierd or uncomfortable moments.

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