One Last Thing (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Perhaps I am unduly harsh on motion pictures that waste a promising premise. One Last Thing is a case in point - the underlying concept is rich with possibilities, yet director Alex Steyermark (Prey for Rock 'n Roll) and writer Barry Stringfellow opt to take the easy way out. There's cloying melodrama, an uplifting final scene, and little in the way of real drama in between. There are things to like about the film. In particular, the acting is solid across-the-board, but the weak script would feel more at home in a made-for-cable movie than in something produced for the big screen.

Teenager Dylan (Michael Angarano) is in the last stages of terminal cancer. His time left on Earth is numbered in days or weeks, not months or years. He wants life to continue as normal, and he wants to stay around until Christmas, but neither possibility looks likely. A Make a Wish foundation has selected Dylan as their newest poster child candidate. Initially, he makes a safe, easily grantable wish: spend the day fishing with his favorite football player, Jason O'Malley (Johnny Messner). But, at the last minute, Dylan changes his mind. His new hope: to spend a weekend alone with bad girl supermodel Nikki Sinclair (Sunny Mabrey). Dylan's mother, Karen (Cynthia Nixon), detests the wish. But Nikki's agent (Gina Gershon) sees the positive publicity opportunity as manna from heaven for her troubled client. So a quick photo op is arranged, which is quickly followed by a road trip for Dylan and his two best friends (Matt Bush, Gideon Glick) as they travel from Marcus Hook to New York City to give Dylan a night on the town with the girl of his (wet) dreams.

Let's face it: Dylan's wish is all about sex. Yet the movie is inexplicably coy about the subject, perhaps because it would involve an underage boy and a twentysomething tart. So the movie plays it safe, trying its best not to offend, and acting as if all Dylan's really after is a nice evening out and a peck on the lips. It's too bad, because there's a real chance to enter interesting territory here and explore the morality of providing a terminally ill teenager the ability to lose his virginity before his disease robs him of his life. But that's not where the movie goes. It stays on the surface and does its best to get us to cry at the end.

There are times when the acting sells the film. In the lead role, Michael Angarano is especially good, giving us glimpses into the mindset of a boy grappling with the reality that he won't live long enough to graduate from high school, get married, or raise a family. Sex in the City's Cynthia Nixon is strong as the loving single mother who has lost her husband and is about to lose her son. Sunny Mabrey perfectly captures the essence of a spoiled supermodel whose extracurricular activities are driving her to despair. Ethan Hawke makes flashback and dream sequence appearances as Dylan's father.

One of my biggest disappointments with One Last Thing is the superficiality of dialogue and character interaction. The lone exception here is the relationship between Dylan and Karen, which is well developed. Unfortunately, Dylan's best friends are types and there's never much of a connection between Dylan and Nikki. Intellectually, we recognize that he is providing her with a means for salvation, but it's not a message that reaches us on an emotional level. There are a lot of subplots that don't go anywhere, and seem included primarily to pad the running time. The spiritual awakening of atheist Dylan is especially unconvincing. By playing it safe, One Last Thing offers tearful interludes but not a lot more.

One Last Thing (United States, 2005)

Director: Alex Steyermark
Cast: Michael Angarano, Cynthia Nixon, Sunny Mabrey, Gina Gerson, Johnny Messner, Matt Bush, Gideon Glick
Screenplay: Barry Stringfellow
Cinematography: Chris Norr
Music: Anton Sank
U.S. Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Run Time: 1:33
U.S. Release Date: 2006-05-05
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Drugs)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1