‘The Last Word’ Undermines Shirley MacLaine’s Performance With a Woefully Predictable Script

The Last Word

There’s a subgenre of movies where an aging movie star takes on a role where they face down their own mortality in the hopes of that one last moment in the limelight and maybe a little bit of awards consideration. Typically the star is playing a cantankerous old person that sheds their layers of gruff exterior and impart their wisdom and a number of life lessons on a young person whom they’ve built a connection with. Most recently we’ve seen Jerry Lewis do this in last year’s Max Rose. Now it’s Shirley MacLaine in director Mark Pellington’s The Last Word, which pretty much follows the standard for these types of movies with little in the way of surprises. The Last Word has moments of modest humor that work and MacLaine gives a nice little performance but the movie is too familiar to be anything more than a slightly passable swan song for its star.

Harriet Lauler (MacLaine) lives a life of constant control and micromanagement. If she’s unhappy with the work of her gardener, she’ll do the gardening work herself. If her housekeeper isn’t cutting her vegetables just right, she’ll cut them the way she like them. If her hairdresser isn’t styling to her satisfaction, she’ll take a mirror and scissors and make it just right. While she’s able to maintain control, there’s a loneliness to that kind of life. When Harriet begins to realize the encroaching sense of her own mortality, she travels to the local newspaper and uses he great means to get the paper’s obituary writer Anne Sherman (Amanda Seyfried) to craft a loving obituary that Harriet can approve before its publication and her death. This, however, proves to be quite a challenge for Anne as she’s incapable of finding too many people to provide kind words about Harriet. Eventually, Harriet’s controlling ways come forward and she presents Anne with four key principles to a good obituary – respect of her co-workers, charitable works, the love of her family, and a wild card that provides the piece with a bit of flair. It’s not long before the two form a bond and Harriet imposes a variety of lessons on the meek Anne because that’s just how these movies work and The Last Word is no different.

The chief appeal of The Last Word is watching Shirley MacLaine get that last moment in the spotlight, and she delivers a pretty solid performance. However, MacLaine gave a stronger performance of a similar type of character in Richard Linklater’s Bernie, a movie that wasn’t burdened with the overt sentimentality on display here. This movie is at its breezy best when it features montages of Seyfried’s Anne seeking kind words about Harriet, finding humor in the wide-held perception of MacLaine’s character who is so shrewd even a priest can’t speak highly of her. There’s also plenty of comedy to be found in Harriet’s attempts to mentor a young black girl, Brenda (AnnJewel Lee Dixon), which starts out as a piece of comedic cynicism before giving way completely towards the most obvious of sentimentality. It often seems as if The Last Word is pulling itself back, never allowing its sweet to blend with its more acerbic elements.

All the story beats of the screenplay by Stuart Ross Fink become more and more apparent as the movie progresses. You just know that Harriet is going to visit the estranged members of her family (her ex-husband played by Phillip Baker Hall and daughter played by Anne Heche) and you know that Harriet and Anne’s friendship will be placed under strain by some form of controlling behavior. The only kind of off-the-wall story development is when Harriet maneuvers her way into a slot as a DJ at an independent radio station run by Robin Sands (Thomas Sadoski), whom soon starts a relationship with Anne. Harriet uses her love of the Kinks as a means to win Robin’s trust and she becomes this wise old sage of music, but it doesn’t feel real as much as a flight of fancy – “Hey, old people are hip!” Like most everything else in The Last Word, the conclusion to the film is pretty much preordained and it lacks an emotional impact because you know it’s coming from the film’s opening frames. At least they did have the decency to use “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks so I could at least hear one of my favorite songs as I left the theater.

Shirley MacLaine is Hollywood royalty and deserves the right to say goodbye to the movie-going public however she sees fit. It’s just a shame that the script and pacing of The Last Word never matches the intent behind the project. Had few more jokes landed, had there been a moment that genuinely surprised, had it dared to just defy convention just a little bit, The Last Word could’ve been that fitting farewell it is intended to be. Instead, The Last Word is fairly generic movie where practically everything is preordained by the subgenre’s convention.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Trip to Spain
Now on Blu-ray: Another Delicious and Delightful Journey with ‘The Trip to Spain’

Who could’ve guessed in 2010 that an improvisational comedy with Steve...

Wormwood
With ‘Wormwood’ Errol Morris Once Again Redefines Documentary Filmmaking

What is truth? Is there such a thing when dealing with...

Last Jedi Press Conference
How Does ‘The Last Jedi’ Differ From ‘The Force Awakens? Rian Johnson and the Cast Explain

A little over a week ago, at an undisclosed location in...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Laser League
These Lasers Cut Straight to the Chase – Laser League Impressions

Don’t blink for a second or you’ll be destroyed by a...

A Way Out
A Way Out is a Game That Truly Understands Co-Op Gaming

EA and Hazelight announce a Friends Pass Free Trial for co-op...

Jupiter and Mars
[PSX] Explore the Technicolor Apocalypse with Jupiter and Mars

I know it’s wrong, but Jupiter and Mars kind of makes me...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
8.3/10
‘The 49th Key’ is a Familiar Story Told with Soul

Title: The 49th Key Written by: Erika Lewis Art by: J.K....

9.5/10
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ is about to Strike!

Title: Doomsday Clock #1 Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Gary Frank Colorist:...

viz media
Viz Media Digital Manga Update for November

TLDR Viz Media announced its digital manga update for November will...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Dexcharge Power Bank Review
The Power to Catch Them All – Dexcharge Power Bank Review

GGTR Game Series Power Banks ensure you have the power, and...

Manga Spice Cafe Box Review
A Taste of Summer in Japan – Manga Spice Cafe Box Review

Get a taste of summer in Japan with the specially curated...

Manga Spice Cafe
A Little Taste of Japan in a Box – Manga Spice Cafe

If you’ve ever wondered what Japanese People snack on while they...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
AXS TV Closes NJPW’s ‘G1 Climax 27’ With Four Episodes From The Final Weekend Beginning Friday Oct. 13

Los Angeles, CA (Oct. 11, 2017) – “Rainmakers” and “High Fly...

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Rocky Romero has created an auction to raise money for UNIDOS por Puerto Rico Disaster Relief

I’m The costume was worn by Rocky during the final Roppongi...

Douglas Lima Defends his Bellator Welterweight Title Against Rory MacDonald at the Forum on 1/20

LOS ANGELES – One year removed from its previous event at...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Samo Says: Star Wars – The Last of My Patience

When I was a child, I loved Star Wars. I had...

batman ninja
Is That Racist? – Batman Ninja Trailer

Nope, this is not a joke. Set to release on DVD...

Cultural Junkdrawer ‘Avengers Infinity War’: Analysis, Conjecture and Outright Lies

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Analysis Conjecture Outright lies   A nearly second...

Event News Event Reviews
dough bar
The Dough Bar and the Protein Donut

Created by Marquez and Ondrea Fernandez, The Dough Bar Doughnuts are...

truedark
Improve Sleep and Performance with TrueDark

TrueDark by Biohacked aims to improve your sleep, performance, and health by...

Pyramid Escape Room Review
Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid Escape Room Review

Overview of The Pyramid Escape Room The Pyramid Escape Room, Escape Room...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...