When my friend and I went to see Half Nelson at Cambridge’s Kendall Square Cinemas, we were stuck in one of those terribly long post-Christmas lines for tickets. It gave us more than enough time to notice a stack of free posters on the concession stand, free posters advertising Zach Braff in The Last Kiss. Being unapologetic mockers, we made fun of it. After all, there was a lot to make fun of - the fact that this was Braff’s follow-up to Garden State, his sadsack expression and the condescending idea of marriage as a total ball and chain, the fact that ladies just want to lock it down while men’s penises need to be wild and free. We had a lot to joke about.
And eventually, we got our tickets and went into the theater, hunkering down in the darkness for Half Nelson. The theater was fairly empty, which is why it was a surprise that an owlish boy in glasses, wearing a backpack, with the slumpy posture of a likely computer nerd (we were in close proximity to MIT), came into our row and sat in the seat next to us.
He said, “I was wondering - what do you have against Zach Braff?”
We replied, “Wait. What? What are you talking about?”
He said, “I was in line behind you, waiting for tickets, and I heard you making fun of The Last Kiss. Why don’t you like Zach Braff?”
We mumbled something about Scrubs getting old and Garden State being an annoying attempt at “voice of a generation” status when it was shallow and not particularly well-done and the most salient example of good preview = bad film and how Natalie Portman’s character wasn’t even, like, a real girl, you know?
He replied, “Do you like Ryan Gosling?” We nodded. “What do you like about him?”
We were a little stymied. We replied that he was a good actor, he was intense, and he even made crappy stuff like The Notebook work due to his sheer intensity and commitment to the role. Plus, a teacher who’s on crack? That’s an interesting role. He’s also attractive, but it’s because he’s talented and charismatic. Unlike Braff.
He listened attentively, taking in our words. He nodded and thanked us for our time. As the lights went down, he got up - it turned out he needed to get to another theater for his movie.
I can only assume it was The Last Kiss.