The Last Word (2017)
Critic Consensus: The Last Word proves Shirley MacLaine remains a wonderfully magnetic screen presence -- and deserving of a far better vehicle for her considerable talents.
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as Harriet Lauler
as Anne Sherman
as Robin Sands
as Ronald Odom
as Joel Mueller
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Critic Reviews for The Last Word
This is a curious mix of The Blind Side, High Fidelity and A Christmas Carol.
A bracingly cynical set-up is slightly betrayed by a treacly ending, but redeemed by the cast, especially the watchable Seyfried and MacLaine, who has the same glint in her eyes that she had in 1960 in The Apartment.
This isn't a very distinguished film but it's likely to be remembered for its central performance.
Here is a horrendous Niagara of syrupy nonsense: sentimental, cliched and humourless.
You won't believe a single minute of it, but you might, despite better judgement, find yourself caring by the end.
Audience Reviews for The Last Word
I've got a bit of a gripe with the rating system, in general. This is something I've mentioned before on my Flixster reviews, but I just wish there was a way you could do quarter ratings. Because there are movies that are better than 2.5 stars that don't quite reach 3. This is why some people, above the review, put the score on a scale of ten. What I don't believe is sort arbitrary ratings, like 8.72 or something, like Pitchfork does. Like how do you even come to that score? Unless you're scoring different criteria and getting the average out of that. I don't know if this is how Pitchfork actually does it, at least now. I read some of their reviews years ago and I don't remember seeing different criteria being scored. But that's neither here nor there. The point of the matter is that i felt that this movie was just a little bit better than 2.5 stars. It's not quite what I would call a good movie, but it's a fairly solid one. And I've given solid movies 3 stars before, but this isn't a movie I feel comfortable giving that to. I don't know what it is about it. Perhaps the fact that I knew that it was gonna end up exactly the way that it ended up. I think it's also due to the fact that I've seen movies like this before. Where a cantankerous old person, in this case a woman, meets and develops a friendship with a younger person, despite being antagonistic with one another when they first meet. Their friendship is life-changing for the both of them and they learn much from one another. I saw one of these recently, at least like 2-3 months ago, and it was called Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks. There's a movie available on Amazon Prime called A Man Called Ove, which seems similar from its trailers, except the man in the film bonds with a family instead. There's another one that came out a few years ago that's more of an indie film that I wish I could remember the name. But, I digress, what I'm trying to say is that this is a movie that is made often and, realistically speaking, the best you can hope for is that you make a good movie, since there's no real unique angle that you can tell this story in. I mentioned earlier that this isn't what I would call a good movie. But I still felt that it was a well-made movie with a really strong cast. Shirley McClaine is great as this shrewd, retired businesswoman who wishes everybody to do things precisely the way she wants them to be done. She hires people to trim her bushes and when she's unsatisfied with that, she does it herself. She cuts her own hair at the salon. She examines herself at the gynecologist. But I felt that the character was strong, though I wish they would have explored more about why Harriet is the way she is. This is something that her ex-husband brings up, but when she was coming up she had to work twice as hard, be twice as ruthless to get the respect that men who, very likely, didn't work as hard as her had. She is the way she is simply because of the time that she came up in and wanting to fulfill her own potential. This attitude and approach to dealing with people has, obviously, left her with very few friends. Which is when she meets Anne, an obituary writer. She hires Anne to write her obit while she is still alive. Anne tries but nobody has absolutely anything positive to say about her. This prompts Harriet to set some guidelines for her obit. She needs to be loved by her family, she needs to be respected by her co-workers, she needs to have mentored someone and the last one is a bit of a wild card. Like, a noted lover of the arts, that type of thing. This is where the film finds it basis, since the film is Harriet's journey to, really, change her life. It doesn't start off as magnanimous as it sounds, since she's just doing all of these things to make sure her obituary sounds great. She's doing it for herself and not because she felt she made mistakes that needed correcting. I think the movie works because Amanda Seyfried and Shirley McClaine do have some excellent chemistry. But, and I've already mentioned this, the film hits all the beats you would expect. Harriet makes judgments on Anne's life and how she's afraid to take risks with her life and career. The two bicker constantly and it's all perfectly fine to watch. That's the problem, though, it's all just fine. I really think the film should have included more of Brenda, who's the 'at-risk youth' that Harriet wishes to mention. The AnnJewel Lee Dixon, who plays Brenda, obviously isn't the most experienced actress with this, in fact, being her first film. But she's probably the best thing in the entire movie outside of Amanda and Shirley. She's very charismatic and energetic. The scenes with her are highlights. I do wish the film had also shown more of Brenda simply because Harriet was supposed to make an marked difference in her life and you really didn't get to see that. One of the film's biggest themes, if not its biggest one, is abandonment. Brenda, Anne and Harriet are all dealing with some for of it. Brenda and Anne had their father and mother, respectively, leave them when they were very young. And Harriet was never really there, emotionally speaking at least, for her daughter. This is something I can relate to, but I never felt them go in too deeply on this subject. I guess I get why they didn't, they don't want to bring the movie down, but it would have been interesting to see. The ending is very sentimental, just as one would expect, but it could have been considerably worse. That shouldn't be taken as a positive, but it is what it is. This is certainly an agreeable and watchable movie, thanks to two very talented lead actresses, but I believe that the film is content just being what it is, it doesn't want to be anything more than that. It doesn't strive to be great. Which is ironic when you consider that one of Harriet's big things was taking risks and fulfilling your own potential. With that said, I can't exactly give this a glowing recommendation, this a perfectly fine little movie.
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