If the new fascism has a pretty face, it may very well be the face of Zach Braff. That, perhaps, is one of the more painful lines I've ever written. I'm an admirer of Mr. Braff--Garden State was well-crafted, and Mr. Braff's ability as creator of mix tapes was sealed with the soundtrack. It was the soundtrack to The Last Kiss that drew me in the door: the music is a heady collection of mellow reflections on love and betrayal and all that affairs of the heart encompass (and I'm listening to it as I write this). So, why, 15 minutes into The Last Kiss was I ready to start chucking my shoes at the screen? And why, at the end of the movie, was I so infuriated that I wanted to walk up to Mr. Braff and cold cock him?
I'm not the kind of person who is unable to differentiate betweeen an actor and a role. I have singled out Zach Braff because chances are, most of the audience for this movie is going expecting some further installation of Garden State. There are some parallel themes—men in their 20's who haven't quite found their way being the most obvious. In The Last Kiss, however, there's a new element: the women all have vagina dentata Every single one of the women has only one object in mind: to castrate the man she's with so he will never, ever stray.
Misogyny is both a fear and a hatred of women. In TLK, they're both so interwoven, it's hard to unpack them. And, of course, on the surface, the four male characters love women: they want to fuck them, and live with them, and make babies with them. Kind of. Except when women are being icky and reminding the men of what they, as women, really represent: maturity. And maturity, as exemplified by the marriage of Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson is a soulless wasteland of no sex, no communication, no passion—just cruelty disguised as snark or benign neglect.
And the movie's producers, who, one assumes, hope this will be a successful "date" movie, know that eventually, Braff must be tamed himself. But in a loving way. In a way that seems completely of his own choosing, after enduring mortification of the flesh and the public castration—you can practically hear the door to his house slamming on his unit—the tamed, soon-to-be-30 year old who recognizes that it is time for him to grow up, settle down, and make a baby. Assume responsibility. Be a good citizen.
He still has his male buddies. And lest we think there's any hint of homoeroticism in those relationships, early on we are treated to watching the four of them watch women simulating lesbian sex for the boys' viewing pleasure. Any guy who likes girls on girls isn't going to turn around and ask his friend for a blowjob. No sir.
The thing that creeped me out during my entire viewing of the movie was the sense that I had read this all before. Male Fantasies, Klaus Theweleit's two-volume study of the culture of masculinity in proto-fascist Germany kept flashing into my head. Women, who are both the object of sexual desire and the way of death. Domesticity, which, while heralded by the state as the sign of maturity is, in the soldier's ethos, the destruction of the korps. For more of my writing on this you can see here, here, or peruse my other posts.
I'm overreaching. I'm sure that I am. On the surface, this is one more movie about giving up one's selfish youth and embracing the suburban hell that is the preordained fate of white, middle-class, privileged America. But the fact remains. The Last Kiss was a nightmarescape for this feminist, who saw in this movie such overt hatred of women that it chilled me right down to my undomesticated cunt.