Although best known for playing JD in the long running hospital comedy Scrubs, a role that has bought him one Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations, most recently the voice of Chicken Little, Zach Braff is starting to make quite a name for himself on the big screen too.
After making his movie debut in 1993 playing the son of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan Murder Mystery (he confesses working with his hero left him shaking on set and looking ‘like a deer in the headlights’), he worked his way up through a series of bit parts before his 2004 breakthrough Garden State, a film in which he not only starred, but also wrote, directed and compiled the Emmy award winning soundtrack.
A sleeper hit that slowly climbed the box office charts, the film also received some of the year’s best reviews. Understandably, audiences won over by its bittersweet charms wanted more. So when The Last Kiss came along, that’s what they assumed they were getting.
A remake of an Italian hit about a guy who, although in a steady relationship, cheats on his girlfriend because he’s suffering an almost-30 crisis, and finds himself faced with losing the happiness he has, it shares similar self-discovery themes to Garden State.
However, a closer comparison would have been Diner and audiences weren’t prepared for the film’s darker, more downbeat mood.
Directed by Tony Goldwyn, it made its debut among the weekend’s top five films but swiftly began to slide, and seems unlikely to make anything near Garden State’s $26m.
"I think people were misled," Braff confesses. "They went in expecting Garden State 2 and it’s a far more serious movie. I think there were things done in post production and marketing that made it look more like Garden State, and I was partially responsible for that by compiling a similar soundtrack. In hindsight that was probably not the wisest thing to do.
"They should have been more honest and said that, although there are laughs, it’s not a comedy, it doesn't have a happy ending and it goes to a much darker place than Garden State."
However, box office disappointments aside, Braff has no complaints about the film itself.
"Yes, it could have been more commercial," he agrees. "Plenty of things could have been edited out or changed to make it so. But everyone involved really believed in it and stayed loyal to the script. Unfortunately audiences had trouble with my character because he doesn’t do the right thing. They were shocked when (after the row with his girlfriend) I go and sleep with the other girl."
It might not have sat well with the romantics, but Braff believes it perfectly reflects the emotional confusion of his generation.
"I’ve just turned 31 and society is saying this is the decade in which you’re supposed to marry. There’s a lot of pressure. But I come from a generation where, for the most part, parents got divorced. So there’s this level of anxiety, this huge pink elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about; how come no-one can stay together anymore? We want commitment but we’re afraid of it because there’s not too many examples of it working."
And perhaps, at the end of the day, that’s what audiences found most upsetting about the film, that it didn’t tie everything up in fantasy pink bows and wedding bells.
"It’s been interesting to see the reactions on my website, " says Braff. "Both men and women say they’re mad with my character, Michael, but, if they’re honest with themselves, they’ve been that person too.
"Michael’s never cheated before and he won’t again, but he needed the missing piece of the puzzle in order to be able to commit, he needed to see what life would be like without her. He’s actually very happy and he doesn't want to be with other women, but at the same time he doesn’t know what to do with the lust that still exists within him.
"He needed to do something superficial like sleep with that girl to wake him up and realise that it’s not what he wants. In the end he does the right thing, even though he may have ruined his entire life. Even if he loses her, he can’t live with the lie. He takes responsibility for his actions, and that’s all you can ask."n The Last Kiss is at cinemas now.