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Drama, Comedy
IMDB rating:
Mark Pellington
Shirley MacLaine as Harriet
AnnJewel Lee Dixon as Brenda (as Annjewel Lee Majestic Dixon)
Valeri Ross as Wanda Byers (as Valerie Ross)
Yvette Freeman as Housekeeper
Thomas Sadoski as Robin Sands
Gedde Watanabe as Gardener
Anne Heche as Elizabeth
Adina Porter as Bree Wilson
Steven Culp as Sam Serman
Tom Everett Scott as Ronald Odom
Todd Louiso as Dr. Morgan
Joel Murray as Joe Mueller
Storyline: Harriet (Shirley MacLaine) is a successful, retired businesswoman who wants to control everything around her until the bitter end. To make sure her life story is told her way, she pays off her local newspaper to have her obituary written in advance under her watchful eye. But Anne (Amanda Seyfried), the young journalist assigned to the task, refuses to follow the script and instead insists on finding out the true facts about Harriett's life, resulting in a life-altering friendship.
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Waste of a wonderful talent
This review of The Last Word is spoiler free

** (2/5)

AS WITH EVERY other film were an octogenarian is the lead, The Last Word opens with a set of photos and a kick-back retro song to show the life that they once had. Here the octogenarian is Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine who at 83 years old has had one stunning career, from Billy Wilder's The Apartment to James L. Brooks' Tears of Endearment she's been in it all. And every time she's given stunning performances, she's no stranger to the spotlight. In her latest starrer The Last Word she plays Harriet Lauler, a retired businesswoman who likes to control everything and everyone, in turn leading her to be one of the most hated people.

We open with her alone in her lavish manor, she's sad, almost tear-filled and for a while the sympathetic feeling this leaves is effective. She decides that she wants her obituary written, she employs young journalist Anne (Seyfried) to write it for her. Who learns the truth about Harriet's life, asking people what she's like as a person, it's much the same answer; she's mean, controlling, angry and hated, thus ending the sympathy we feel for in the opening. Anne decides to tell Harriet the truth, and she makes an attempt to change her life.

MacLaine is the polishing appearance, giving an honest and brave performance she makes you feel for her, she's a loving grandmother type figure to her young high-spirited intern Brenda (Lee Dixon) and she's a good friend to Anne, as the lead it takes a while to warm up to her. By the time she warms up to her sympathetic measures – it goes away. To be fair, you can't blame director Mark Pellington who has had many big screen hits since his 1997 debut Going All The Way, it's the material that's to blame, it's predictable, clichéd and misguided – it doesn't work as a comedy. There are elements of comedy that spark there are a couple of gags more notably expressed from Brenda, this little girl brings heart to the film, she's energetic and has a lovable attitude, using her extensive f-bombs to change Harriet's ways of life.

The third act brings the most life to MacLaine's shining star power, when she's on her last words she shows strength of being a good person, something that the previous hour muddled up. The Last Word is an un-funny, predictable, clichéd, misguided and a sort of trashy excuse for a redemption story that doesn't deserve the polished star power of a long-lived Hollywood legend.

VERDICT: Although MacLaine fiercely gives her all, this is a misguidedly dim comedy-drama with fiery good intentions that push it through its ideas, but not enough heart to complete them.
Another Great Story
Growing old and dying... Something we all will do. Individual definitions of "old" may differ, but we are all in the same boat. This movie presents the viewer with a poignant yet humorous map of how we can get from here to there. It makes you think and smile while dealing with a subject that is somewhere between uncomfortable and terrifying for most of us. My thanks to all involved! It was entertaining and educational at the same time - a rare feat!
Shirley MacLaine in another of her impossible character portraits...
Wealthy woman, a former business titan living a very precise and orderly--and lonely--existence in her nearly-empty manor, wants the final say on her future obituary. Having kept her local paper alive for many years with her advertising dollars, she self-assigns the obituary reporter with the task of putting an optimistic spin on her life. What begins as a very thin character study of a straight-talking yet annoying character slowly blossoms into the much more rewarding story of a pushy old lady who manages to transform her bitter existence with friendship. Granted, friendship doesn't come easily to this control-freak, but what transpires on her journey to personal redemption is surprising and rewarding. The sassy dialogue in Stuart Ross Fink's screenplay doesn't ring true (and some of the actors cast in the smaller roles haven't a hope in hell of making it sound natural), but leads Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried develop a pleasing scratchy-and-smooth rapport (they also co-executive produced). MacLaine has yet another turn at playing a stubborn, impossible woman (she's making it a habit). While her Harriet here isn't necessarily a plausible creation, she's certainly a colorful bouquet of quirks, tied up with a cackle and a smart retort. ** from ****
Boring and irritating
This film tells the story of an elderly woman who is difficult and controlling. One day, she comes up with the idea of controlling what her obituary should look like. Therefore, she hires an obituary writer to work on the last words that would summarise her existence on Earth.

The first five minutes should have been a warning sign for me. There is little dialog, as the screen shows Shirley MacLaine's character, Harriet being grumpy by herself. Then, she is as difficult as can be, evoking no sympathy for her from me.

I can't quite bear her creating artificial relationships with Amanda Seyfried and the little girl either, as their bond with Harriet is contrived and unconvincing. Am I really to believe that you can chat up a little girl in the school yard, and subsequently take the girl on a one day trip without parental consent? The whole subplot of the little girl is seriously flawed.

The story is slow, and there is not enough content to fill the screen time. I felt seriously bored. I almost dosed off when Harriet does something similar on the sofa. Then something unbelievable happens. I cannot possibly imagine anyone does what Amanda Seyfried does in that situation. Her lack of action is entirely absurd and senseless.

Normally I like a brain off film with a predictable plot, but "The Last Word" manages to bore and irritate me.
Loved this Movie
Just saw The Last Word, and got to hear the director speak afterward. I loved it. Heartwarming story, great character development. Serious, yet humorous - cute at times. Great movie about an elderly woman who is dealing with the final years of her life. Shirley MacLaine is outstanding. The little girl, played in the movie, by AnneJewel Dixon, is perfectly sassy. And Anne Heche gives a really great performance as MacLaine's daughter. I really enjoyed how MacLaine's character strengthened Amanda Seyfried's character and help her grow. It is very rare in Hollywood to see a movie focused on the issues that that the elderly face in their final years - and this movie does it in a touching way, sometimes lighthearted, sometimes serious.
This great mix of well-established talent with others just starting out makes for one enjoyable film.
Actress Shirley MacLaine has had quite a career – and an interesting life. She was ahead of her time in being a very independent-minded career woman… and developed a reputation for being difficult to work with. She had a decades-long marriage which ended in divorce, but produced one child, a daughter. In her later years, she has remained active in trying to shape her legacy, which is clearly seen in her 2017 comedy-drama "The Last Word" (R, 1:48). Advertising executive Harriet Lauler has had quite a career – and an interesting life. She was ahead of her time in being a very independent-minded career woman… and developed a reputation for being difficult to work with. She had a decades-long marriage which ended in divorce, but produced one child, a daughter. In her later years, she has become active in trying to shape her legacy, which is what the 2017 comedy-drama "The Last Word" is all about. Now, art-imitating-life parallels aside, playing Harriet serves to remind us how busy MacLaine has remained, on screens big and small, even as her 70s drifted into her 80s – and what a singular talent she remains.

"Control is very important to Harriet," one character observes. That's an understatement – and an incomplete one too. Not only has Harriet Lauler (Shirley MacLaine) always exerted control over as many parts of her life as possible, she was always been very disagreeable as she did so. Years ago, she angrily quit the ad agency that she helped to found because she didn't like how one of her clients conducted a focus group. She once told her gynecologist(!), "When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you." Her parish priest even admits, "I hated her. So much." These days, Harriet's retired. She lives alone in her big house and exerts her brand of rude control by chastising her gardener for trimming her hedges from top to bottom, instead of from bottom to top, as she has instructed him, "many times" he admits with a sigh. Then, when she reads someone's obituary in her local newspaper, she finds something else to control.

Harriet visits the paper's offices and asks the editor, Ronald Odom (Tom Everett Scott), to introduce her to the obituary writer, Anne Sherman (Amanda Seyfried). Sitting behind Ronald's desk, Harriet gives Anne the assignment to write her obituary now, so she can be sure she'll be satisfied with what will be published about her in the newspaper after she is gone. Ronald tells Anne that Harriet had been a great friend to the paper when she did ads for Ronald's father and implies that she might remember the paper in her will. "Make her happy," is Ronald's simple instruction to Anne, who reluctantly gets to work. The problem is that there just isn't much to say about Harriet beyond her past career accomplishments – and Anne can't find a single person to say anything nice about her – even from the list of names that she received from Harriet herself. Naturally, Harriet is dissatisfied with Anne's first draft – and tells her so.

Harriet has read a number of obituaries and determined that there are four things that make a good obituary: a loving family, the respect of co-workers, touching the life of someone who needs a helping hand and… a wild card, something unique in the life of the deceased that provides the proverbial icing on the cake. Harriet knows that Anne won't write anything about Harriet that is not truthful, so she gets Anne to help her "shape a legacy". Without giving away how all of this shakes out, I'll just say that this journey puts Harriet and Anne in touch with Harriet's ex-husband (Phillip Baker Hall), Harriet's estranged daughter (Anne Heche), a former co-worker (Joel Murray), an at-risk youth (AnnJewel Lee Dixon) and a charming disc jockey (Thomas Sadoski). And as the two women work together on Harriet's unusual project, she does some unwelcome, but well-intentioned meddling in Anne's personal life as well.

"The Last Word" is a relatively original and very well-done genre film. Sure, it's formulaic, but movies use formulas for a reason. The real question is whether the film tells its story effectively and this one definitely does. The script from Stuart Ross Fink (writing his first feature) creates a fresh take on the trope of examining a life not-so-well-lived and gives us interesting characters. The excellent actors bring out the nuances in those characters and director Mark Pellington ("Arlington Road", "The Mothman Prophecies") gives the film a great balance of comedy, drama, life lessons and just plain fun. The film's ending may be predictable, but getting there is a very rewarding experience. Movie Fans (especially fans of Ms. MacLaine) will likely be thankful that, with other projects in the works, this film won't be the last word in Shirley MacLaine's stellar career. It also makes us look forward to much more to come from the talented Seyfried, the spunky newcomer Dixon and rookie writer Fink, with this impressive debut. This great mix of well-established talent with others just starting out makes for one enjoyable film. "A-"
Exceptionally inspirational
Many of the reviewers of this movie take it on face value. The theme, characters played by.. and how they did. All of what they was said was true.

I think these reviews missed the depth of it.

It was about moms, dads, and how they are affects us and how we affect them.

It was about a women who takes risks for what she wanted and spoke her mind, and in the end found what truly mattered to her. Love, from some very unexpected people and situations.

It's about how each person views themselves, and how they find out that their vision is typical in that their peripheral view is not showing them all sides to themselves.

True Harriet is controlling, but if you look closer, she is brilliant and teaches sometimes glaringly and sometimes unwittingly many people. Many people missed that she doubted much of what she did and felt regret on several things that she did.

Though many people hated her, more admired her for being a strong and willful person who went after what she wanted, and didn't deserve what happens to her.

Many reviewers miss that this is not only educational for the people on the screen but also to many of the viewers. Do these reviewers belief they take risks to get what they want or are bold enough to walk into a place where they want something and prove to someone they are worthy of what they are requesting? How many of these people are strong enough to risk falling spectacularly on their faces.

These people did not take the deeper motivational meaning behind the story.

Many people today watch movies with their minds and not their hearts and do not try to find information that might be pertinent to their own lives or those of others in their lives.

To the writer:

This writing is so relevant in today's society, many people who are older wonder if they accomplished what they set out to, or have many regrets regarding their dreams they did not take risks to reach, and they do not get the opportunity to have fun and be happy near the end.

The young people of today need inspiration to reach for the stars and take risks, not only does that message come through, but it also shows how to do it.

Bravo on a script extremely well written.
Funny but too much language
This is just the kind of film that my grandparents would enjoy EXCEPT for the language. I should have counted the number of f-bombs.

Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfriend were both great and the story was touching and funny. If not for the language I would recommend this much more. It's a shame.
Beautiful story and really great music
This movie was such a treasure. Who among us doesn't wonder what people will say when we die? A real poignant telling of a person taking stock of their life with humor and grace, even though she wasn't quite seen in that light for most of her life. Such great moments on how to be brave and lead when it's scary to do so. And how to figure out what you want when it's easier to just do what you're told.

Watching Harriet journey through to find "the 4" main things that would allow her to let go of her control-filled life and finalize her legacy makes you pause and think about the mirror we all will have to raise at the end of our days to see if this is in fact where we want to leave off - if you have the luxury to do so.

What I have not seen mentioned anywhere is how great the soundtrack is. Wow. I would like to buy it right now, please. If there was time to expand on this part of the movie, it could have evolved into a senior version of High Fidelity.

Worth it. Thumbs up.
Never judge a book by its cover
This movie was thoughtful,inspiring and spoke volumes of the human condition. The honesty of Miss.Shirley McClain's character was refreshing and strong. The cast was bright and young and the sound track was hip and retro. We don't make mistakes, mistakes make us, fall on your face and fall hard!
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