‘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
Smash: Motorized Mayhem
‘Smash: Motorized Mayhem’ is For Auto Racing Fans, and That’s It

The wheels on the bus go round and round in Smash:...

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Trailer
Red Band Trailer for Martin McDonagh’s ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

We’ve been long overdue for a new film from Martin McDonagh,...

Life
‘Life’ is a Lean, Mean ‘Alien’ Knockoff

Like so many great films, Alien spawned a whole slew of...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Launch Trailer
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Launch Trailer Launches a Storm of Bullets

Bullets fly and obscenities should be bleeped but aren’t in the...

New Frontier Episode 3 Release Date
Official The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Episode 3 Release Date

We finally have the official The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series –...

Injustice 2 Shattered Alliances Part 3
Supergirl Gives Us Hope in the New Injustice 2 Shattered Alliances Part 3 Trailer

The House of El has a new hero, Supergirl looks to...

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
Marvel’s ‘Generations’: Original Wolverine, Hulk, Iron Man and more to return

On February 16, 2017, Marvel and ABC announced the coming of...

Boruto
VIZ Media is Bringing Boruto to North America on Blu-Ray and Manga

VIZ Media announces North American Home Media Release of Boruto: Naruto the...

An Interview w/ Cyanide & Happiness Co-Creator Dave McElfatrick

Since the mid-2000’s, the insanely popular web comic Cyanide & Happiness...

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
UAG
This Case is More Extreme Than You Are – UAG Urban Armor Gear

  If you live extremely, or just really want to protect...

Solo Backpacks
Protect Your Tech in Style With the New Solo Backpacks

Nerds, we are no longer limited to pocket protectors and neon...

Eyezen Glasses
EyeBuyDirect Eyezen Glasses Relieve Digital Eye Strain

EyeBuyDirect Eyezen Glasses help relieve eye strain and potential damage caused...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Vampiro Named the Head of Talent Relations for Lucha Libre FMV

From El Rey Network – Los Angeles – March 13 2017...

GLORY 39 Brussels and GLORY 39 SuperFight Series Fight Cards Finalized for Saturday, March 25

AMSTERDAM – GLORY, the world’s premier kickboxing league, today announced the...

KOTC Signs 14 WMMA Fights to Exclusive Contracts

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA. (March 7, 2017) – King of the Cage has announced...

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...?
DC’s New Aqualad is ‘3-Pages of Gay’

3…2…1…Okay, now that the Social Justice Warriors who have only read...

12 Incredible Assyrian Women Around the World (Reposting)

March commemorates Women’s History Month in the United States of America,...

Comics on the Can – Amerikarate #1

Amerikarate! Writer – Corey Kalman, Brockton McKinney. Illustrated by Devin Roth...

Event News Event Reviews
WWE Slam Crate Event – Stone Cold Stuns Meltdown Comics

WWE Slam Stars is an upcoming series of figures that will...

Chris Hardwick Launches First-Ever ID10T Music Festival + Comic Conival

From Live Nation Entertainment – Los Angeles, CA (March 6, 2017)...

‘Jeff & Larry’s Backyard BBQ’ to Feature Musical Guests Eddie Money, The Marshall Tucker Band, Foghat & More

From Live Nation Entertainment – Two of the country’s most renowned...

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
Lebanese Englishwoman, Nadine Khouri Lulls you with ‘The Salted Air’

There is something fitting about a woman who’s last name translates...

Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con: Interview w/ Sonya Belousova

At last month’s Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con event, I had...

Mike Hill Bass Lives for ‘Love and War’

Love and War is a pop rock collaborative project that is...