Harriet is a retired businesswoman who tries to control everything around her. When she decides to write her own obituary, a young journalist takes up the task of finding out the truth resulting in a life-altering friendship.
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.Written by
Anne initially refuses to write Harriet's obituary before she's dead, even though that convention only applies to *publishing* obituaries. Print & TV news media keep large collections of living obituaries, which have to be constantly updated. See more »
You don't make mistakes. Mistakes make you. Mistakes make you smarter. They make you stronger, and they make you more self-reliant.
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I should honestly be impressed that The Last Word gets away with as much as it does. It starts as one of those stereotypical light-weight puff pieces. The kind that gears itself toward the fussy, all-knowing, film festival crowd, then hits them over the head with the same mindlessness they claim to avoid by not watching mainstream films. The irony of course is they're never made aware that they're watching strategically released pabulum because they're "too smart and refined" (and white) to subject themselves to the latest common blockbuster. The Last Word is basically the cinematic equivalent of "The Emperor's New Clothes," for old people.
The Last Word stars aged Hollywood icon Shirley MacLaine who basically takes the hindsight throne that was previously sat on by Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash (2015) and Al Pacino in Danny Collins (2015). She plays, of course a mortality aware loner who decides she wants to change her life with the help of a permanently brought-aback obituary writer (Seyfried) and later on, a sassy little black girl (Lee Dixon) whose tokenism would be offensive if it wasn't so carelessly stilted. Within the course of a month, Harriet Lalor (MacLaine) decides to reconstruct her legacy in the following order of importance: touch someone's life unexpectedly, find that certain something extra, be respected by her community and be beloved by friends and family.
What immediately elevates Last Word from other pedestrian feel-good movies like this, is the inclusion of Shirley MacLaine. With over fifty years of experience playing acid-dipped battle-axes, MacLaine easily transcends the film's paltry story and annoyingly analog aesthetics. She does so well playing the quintessential shrew that every other one-note character fades into the background like a white wall against a bright tapestry.
Of course, if sassy repartee alone was enough to elevate a bomb I'd be working for a publication by now. Literally everything else in this film suffers from clumsily sets up reveals and embarrassingly artificial sentiment. We see it all coming yet no effort is made to keep the script itself engaging or the least bit deserving of such an off-the-wall character. Why is Lalor hated by her family, why was she ejected by the advertising agency she started, why does literally everyone she meets want to kill her? The answers to all these questions will likely give OCD sufferers reason to get off their meds while giving babyboomers license to continue being s***ty people.
What saves The Last Word from ultimately being beyond redemption is the very clear inference that the movie is a fantasy. It's a very treacly fantasy and one that would needle audiences outside its demographic into a permanent eye-twitch. Yet for those who just can't fathom why young whippersnappers like me can't just point to a place on a map and go, The Last Word is just what the doctor ordered. Consider it the last movie you'll see before euthanasia.
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