Sunday, February 19, 2012

OLD vs. NEW: The Last Kiss

Yeah, this is a tough one. Being two movies of different nationality, the resemblance between the two is huge. But, there is still some difference to be considered, and that is what we are here to discuss, so let us dig into:

(2001) The Last Kiss (2006)

Carlo/Michael has been in a three year long relationship with his girlfriend Giulia/Jenna. But when Giulia/Jenna remains pregnant, the two decide to tell their parents the good news. Unfortunately, this big news brings out the mid-life crisis of both Carlo/Michael and Giulia/Jenna’s mother Anna. But the two are not the only one who have problems. Carlo/Michael has three best friends, out of whom only one has a real story arc, either way: Paolo/Izzy’s father dies while he is grieving over the loss of his girlfriend and he decides to leave the country for good; Alberto/Kenny is a player, who faces the problem of having to settle down, so he decides to leave as well; and we have Adriano/Chris who’s in an unhappy marriage ever since his son was born.
Things escalate when at the wedding of their friend, Marco/Mark, Carlo/Michael meets a young girl, Francesca/Kim. She turns his world around, making him forget that he has a girlfriend, a job, responsabilities and so on. He spends the night out with her, asking Adriano/Chris to cover for him with Giulia/Jenna, but Paolo/Izzy’s father dies, and they all come together, except for Carlo/Michael, who is out with her and has turned off his cellphone. Giulia/Jenna gets suspicious and finds out that he is on a date. When he gets home she tells him to get the hell out of their life, and he, pissed as he is goes back to Francesca/Kim and spends the night with her.
Meanwhile we find out that Giulia/Jenna’s mother had had an affair for quite some time and that she is awfully unhappy with her marriage. She leaves her husband, tries to renew her relationship with her ex but her husband comes forward telling her that he is nothing without her and he can’t live without her, even if he understands that he hasn’t been the best husband. She moves back, but Giulia/Jenna feels a bit betrayed by her mother’s past, claiming that she won’t end up like her.
Carlo/Michael can’t go on living his life, he realizes that it was his stupid fear of becoming stuck in a life that lead him to this awful mistake, while he really does want that life (!) and decides to get back Giulia/Jenna no matter what, except the young Francesca/Kim shows up on his doorstep. She can’t understand why he won’t be with her, she loves him, doesn’t he love her? And as painful as that is, he has to admit to her that he used her, and he needs to get back to reality. He leaves her behind and gets Giulia/Jenna back.

You might have noticed that I didn’t finish off everybody’s story, mostly because the biggest difference between the two movies is how each story arc got concluded, so let us dive into them 1 after the other!

First of all, I always preferred the American version, but now, writing here I’ve come to realize that there are only a few points I can give to the American, in contrast with the original, and these are:
In the American Anna, Jenna’s mom’s scene are limited. We understand her pain, we understand her insecurities, and that is all you need really. While in the Italian she has a whole story of her own, of going out to parties, moving in with a girlfriend, completely and utterly leaving her husband and then going back to him because she has no other place to go. Her husband, besides obviously loving her, doesn’t really come through for her. And when you are really curious about the main characters, you just don’t care abour the mom! So the limitation on her story were an upside.
Second, is the contrast between Francesca and Kim. Her role was to make Carlo and Michael feel young again, but Francesca was a lot younger. She was just over 18 and fell in love the first time, because at that age sex has a deeper meaning for girls. While Kim was already in college. To be honest, this is a really hard one, because Francesca does sell the ’I fell in love with you after one night’ better than Kim does, but if we think about a time when one is foolish and really alive, you think of the college years, when you live in a dorm, there is a party somewhere every night and you have no parents to watch over you. So I do choose Kim over Francesca, but only for the one reason, and that is not the love motif, but the young and careless motif of the movie.
Third is the contrast between Alberto and Kenny, the player. My biggest problem is that Alberto was a tall skinny-skinny guy with rasta hair, and he was somewhat disgusting, therefore the ’guy-who-bangs-everybody’ wasn’t really believable to me. While in the American Kenny was a bit muscular guy with wide shoulders and long blonde hair, who resembled a knight in shining armor instead of a hobo who didn’t get the chance to wash his hair lately... So yeah, as far as being believable, the American wins.
Fourth is the contrast between Adriano and Chris. He is in an unhappy marriage as I mentioned before, his little boy never stops crying and things around his marriage start to crumble. When Paolo/Izzy suggests that they get out of the country, for good, he immeadiately decides to go with them, but in the American version he changes his mind at the last moment. He goes home, tells his wife that it is over between them, but he isn’t going to leave his son. And I always preferred that, I find the idea of being able to leave my child, my own flesh and blood behind me to be absurd! Also understand the urge for Paolo/Izzy and Alberto/Kenny to want to have an adventure before their life really starts, before they actually find that person with whom they commit to a life, but Adriano/Chris has already found that person and has already began that life... why run? Also, as far as casting goes, I've never seen Casey Affleck do anything on screen... He usually plays the same characters, probably because that is the only one he can play, but there was a bit of rage missing from him, however, in his one scene where he yells with Jenna, his character really comes out. I only wished he would've had more scenes like that!

What makes the Italian version better? Everything else.
The biggest difference is that Carlo is also a narrator. We hear his thoughts, his problems, he sometimes hears his friends who appear around him. It is almost like reading a book, but it pays attention to not letting Carlo off as a derranged maniac, but simply someone who thinks about his actions before doing them.
But getting back, I love the casting of the American, but I also find that I could connect more with the Italian. When Giulia finally reaches Carlo, the night he was out with Francesca, Carlo gets into an accident, almost getting hit by another car, and in the end crushing into one. In the American, Michael barely drives at 1mile/hour and hits the slimmest tree you have ever seen in your life! Carlo’s car almost doesn’t restart, while Michael’s doesn’t even have a scratch on it... that was a bit dumb. However, my favorite scene above everything else is when Carlo gets home and Giulia confronts him /To see this scene with English subtitles click hereOr scroll to the bottom of the page!/. She beats the shit out of him and tells him to leave her. He says that one kiss after three years is not a big deal, which only enrages her even more. Carlo tries to calm her, seeing that she is after all pregnant, and stress is no good for her. Now comes one of the most frightening of all sentences, he says :

- We are having a baby.
- No, I am having this baby!”

And goose bumps get you all over, it’s so powerful. You never really think about it that way, do you? You figure that it takes two to have a baby and you only think about how hormonal a woman actually gets during pregnancy, you don’t think about the fact that it is really her having a baby. She’s the one who has to go through it, who’s body is changing, all of it… and she will kick you out in the beginning if she wishes to. Here she gets a knife and almost stabs him, where he gives up and tells her that it is her loss and goes off to see Francesca. The next morning he tries to get her back, emphasizing again that they are having a baby after all, to which she says that she might not keep it. And here is what made the biggest difference for me: the italians yell like shit. I am telling you, nobody yells like the italians, it is what makes this movie worth watching, those 4, maybe 5 arguments they have. You really feel the pain, their nerves exploding, the Italian language is the only one where swear words are actually needed for a good conversation, while sometimes in the American you feel as if “yeah, I think that’s enough f*cks for 1 sentence!”. Also, abortion? Dear God, that’s a hard subject in America still, but in Italy? I don’t think so… And Carlo gets so pissed off, he yells his lung off, telling her not to even think about something so foolish! Giulia/Jenna tells him that she can do whatever she wants, they are free, no ring to seal them together, just like he wanted. While Michael only hits the door once and then gives up.
The second most powerful scene is their second fight. Giulia/Jenna moves back in with her parents, and Carlo/Michael goes to see her. Let me tell you about the American first: he goes to see her, tells her that he was scared and stupid and reveals that he slept with Kim after all. Jenna leaves him there and goes back to their house, while Michael decides to sit out on the porch until she talks to him. He stays there for several days, through rain and bad weather and in the end she opens the door for him and that’s where the movie ends. It is cute, but you don’t really get an answer, you hope they will stay together but you are not that sure. While, in the Italian, Carlo never confesses to her about sleeping with Francesca… I am all for honesty, but in this case it wouldn’t have solved anything, he would’ve only hurt her and he realizes that, so he keeps it to himself. “If I were a bit stronger, our story would finish here.” She tells him still enraged. /To see this scene with English subtitles, click here! Or scroll to the bottom of the page!/

- Why did you do something so awful to me, why?
- Because I was afraid of something so enormous.
- Enough! I don’t want to hear you anymore.
- Then let’s stop talking and get back together, you’ll see it’ll be worth it.
- NO!
- We still have so much to do together. I love you. Love you, love you. We always said we were meant to be together.
- We were wrong.
- We were not wrong.
- I was wrong.
- Give me another chance, you’ll see I’ll grow up my love, I’ll grow up.
- And how? How the hell do you suppose you’ll grow up?
- If you still want it, we can get married. The time to sign the documents and we’ll be married. I am honest, I’m not just saying for sake of conversation. Think of our daughter. We’ll be able to start all over, as long as we want to. We’ll get married and we’ll be happy. You’ll see my love.
- Why can’t I hate you, WHY?!
- We are meant to be together.

And that really gets to you, I mean when you really love someone, you don’t let them go. You literally do anything to get them back, and the movie has this beautiful ending, where Carlo realizes that he had nothing to be afraid of. He loves his little daughter, she is everything to him, he is ready to be a grown up! They do get married. But what makes this scene even better is Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Giulia, she is the best you can get when it comes to Italian actresses. She takes you with her; she is the only reason why you need, NEED to see this movie! She has the ability to transport you into her mind, even if Carlo is the narrator she has a magic of her own. /I've found Jacinda Barrett to be a fantastic actress for this movie, and maybe it was simply the writing, or the very scene I just wrote down for you, but I still feel that the italian version gave me more/. During the last scene she cries, and during this dialogue you can hear in her voice that she is about to give in, that she wants to be loved by this idiot, that she needs him in her life, and no matter what she will forgive him, even if it might break her heart in two. And in many occasions that’s how love works, we even give ourselves up sometimes have those couple of seconds every day when you know that somebody out there loves you.
/Even if only with subtitles, try to check out some of Giovanna Mezzogiorno’s movies, she does miracles on the screen, trust me on that!/

Then let me tell you that the music is wonderful. The American has a couple of good songs from Coldplay and SnowPatrol, but the score of the original simply gets under your skin, it has a power of its own! It is a mature score really. /To hear the main song by Paolo Buonvino click here!/. The point of this movie is to show us all the faces of love, leaving out the most obvious one: the happy one (which would be Marco/Mark’s but we don’t really deal with him after his wedding). However, as horrible as these stories are, there is some reality to them, which is exactly what, makes them so horrible. You don’t want to know that the love of your life doesn’t love you anymore; you don’t need to know that the father of your child cheated on you or that the guy you like sleeps with everything that has a vagina!
And to finish off, the only thing that I disagree with is the very last frame of the original:
Giulia goes running every night, she wants to lose all the weight she gained during her pregnancy, worried that Carlo won’t like her anymore (this issue is addressed in the beginning). We see her running, crossing a guy… who then runs after her and she smiles at him… Now, reading it this gives you two options in your mind: 1, she is happy that she’s still attractive; 2, she will make Carlo pay her own way. The second one is the one with which I always associated the ending with, and I’ve always come to find that a bit f*cked up! I am not sure if this was just a critique that that is how things work now, you either get in on it or get lost. Or simply a discrete way of signaling that if you marry an Italian, your chances of not being cheated on are really low… either way, it is not a pretty picture! And I said, the American doesn’t go there, so maybe it does only refer to the Italians? Who knows.

I do suggest you check out both movies, but do not watch them one after the other, wait a couple of days, and trust me, it’ll be worth it!

Until the next item on my list!

The argument: /Giulia finds out that Carlo was out with another girl and confronts him./

The end: /Carlo goes to see Giulia at her parents' house and begs for her forgiveness./
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _

Francesca - Martina Stella
Adriano - Giorgio Pasotti
Alberto - Marco Cocci

Michael - Zach Braff
Chris - Casey Affleck

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