In Focus

'Last Kiss': Love in the Time Of Cynicism and Divorce

"People in our generation, most of their parents were divorced. I think that made people disillusioned," says Casey Affleck, who stars in "The Last Kiss" with Blythe Danner and Zach Braff. (By Jonathan Wenk Chris)
By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 15, 2006

"Love is patient," Paul tells the Corinthians.

"Your fertility peaks from your late teens to your late twenties and then begins to decline," the American Society for Reproductive Medicine tells its female patients.

"I've just been thinking about my life lately, and everything feels pretty planned out," Zach Braff tells that vixen Rachel Bilson in "The Last Kiss," when his own girlfriend is just out of earshot.

"That is so boring," she responds.

So, there you have it, folks -- a snapshot of modern romance in the era of indefinite adolescence, "Platinum Weddings," television shows and text-message dating services. Pre-tty, pre-tty tragic, huh?

To examine this sorry state of affairs, we're on the line with Casey Affleck, a Boston son and brother to Ben who shows up alongside Braff in this latest Hollywood interpretation of young love and its aftermath.

Let's get right to it, Casey. You're 31. Why are people your age so romantically screwed up? Too much premarital sex?

"I think one of the issues is, how do you make a relationship work when you didn't have any role models? A lot of people from our generation -- their parents are divorced and their friends' parents are divorced," he says. "And if you never saw a couple make it work, what guide do you have?"

Hmmmm. That's interesting. Blame the folks who brought you into this world. Now, in "Last Kiss" (see review on Page 42) you play one of four guys about to turn 30 who find their romantic lives in varying states of calamity. One man just got dumped, one can't fathom commitment, Braff's character wants to cheat on his pregnant girlfriend and you spend the whole time trying to leave your wife. Possibly not the best choice for a first date, is it?

"What I liked about it was that it took a fairly honest, brave look at relationships and people making mistakes. . . . The people you're rooting for are making really bad, stupid mistakes. And you see them as real, flawed human beings," he says. "Which is refreshing."

But whatever happened to Cinderella and Ali MacGraw and true love blooming during a snowball fight on a college quad and never having to say you're sorry? Is all that magic lost?

"I think people probably don't really believe in those kinds of fairy tales so much," Affleck says. "I think it goes back to the fact that people in our generation, most of their parents were divorced" -- the Afflecks, for instance. "I think that made people disillusioned on a very deep, subconscious level with the idea of marriage and maybe even love, unfortunately."

Wow. It's that bad out there, huh? So, you think this movie is a pretty accurate reflection of love in 21st-century America?

"There's a lot of cynicism today," he says. "I think what it shows is people who want to be in love, people who want to be in a relationship and how they struggle with making that relationship work."

"The Last Kiss" is based on the Italian film "L'Ultimo Bacio" (2001), right? The flick was a hit in Italy, a favorite of critics and audiences. But let's be honest, those people were Italian. They might be a little more accepting of, well, let's just say imperfect relationships. Was there any thought to making the movie a little sunnier this time around? You know, to suit American tastes. Maybe less sleeping around, more surprise proposals in hot-air balloons?

"A lot of people will go to this movie and be upset by a lot of the things that they see. They'll be angry at some of the characters, and that's risky," he says. "You don't want to anger the audience, but I think it works to the movie's benefit in the end."

Hang on there, Casey, because on Line 2 we have another very special guest. Gwyneth's mom and your "Last Kiss" co-star, the divine Blythe Danner. Ms. Danner, you're wise and sophisticated and just bagged a second Emmy for your work on the gritty Showtime drama "Huff." You must have some thoughts on the love lives of today's young people. What's the problem here?

"We're living in a very terrifying time, and I think it somehow informs so much of the behavior of young people, that general fear," she says. "It's just the most frightening time."

Good point. The terrorists are always ruining everything. But actually, the kids aren't the only ones with romance issues in this movie, are they? You play a wife and mother who has a bit of a meltdown in her 30th year of marriage. In reality, you were married for 33 years to Bruce Paltrow (who died of complications from cancer four years ago). What's the trick? Clearly you knew something this generation is missing. Tell us.

"It's communication and forgiveness. We all do things we need to be forgiven for," she says. "We also need to talk. I don't think there'd be nearly as much divorce if people talked about things."

You hear that, people? It's time to talk it out. Okay, Casey, one more question for you, and then we'll let you get back to work on "Ocean's Thirteen," with Brad and George and the boys. Be sure to tell them we said hello, will you?

Now, we've discussed how hard it is for folks today to find love and make that big, lifelong commitment. But you actually got married this year, to Summer Phoenix, sister of Joaquin and mother of your 2-year-old son, Indiana. Was it a torturous, angst-ridden process to figure out that she was the one and that you actually did want to wade into the rocky waters of holy matrimony?

"I knew from the very first moment," he says.

Oh. Well, great. Congrats.


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