Screen Savor: 'The Last Word’ Left Me Speechless In A Bad Way

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(l-r) Amanda Seyfried stars as Anne Sherman, Shirley MacLaine as Harriet Lauler and Ann’Jewel Lee as Brenda in Mark Pellington’s THE LAST WORD, a Bleecker Street release

Harriet Lauler (Shirley MacLaine), the main character in “The Last Word” (Bleecker Street), likes to have, well, the last word. A successful and wealthy retired businesswoman in her early 80s, Harriet made a name for herself, running her own ad agency at a time when it wasn’t as common as it is now.

Unfortunately, during her career and lifetime, she didn’t just burn bridges, she blew them up beyond repair. It’s been years since she talked to her daughter Elizabeth (Anne Heche). The same holds true for her ex-husband Edward (Philip Baker Hall), as well as her hairdresser, her priest and practically anyone else with whom she came in contact throughout her lifetime.

Depressed and living alone in her large and beautifully appointed home, Harriet bides her time by harassing her gardener and her cook/housekeeper. After a failed “accidental” suicide attempt involving four Clonazepam and a bottle of red wine, Harriet reevaluates her life after sopping up another wine spill with the obituary page of the newspaper.

She reaches out to newspaper publisher Ronald (Tom Everett Scott), who owes her a debt of gratitude, for an introduction to his obit writer Anne (Amanda Seyfried). Harriet then enlists Anne to write an obit befitting someone of her stature. However, not a single person has anything nice to say about her. It is then that Harriet, with Anne by her side, sets out to right as many wrongs as possible.

Along the way, she attempts to patch things up with Elizabeth and Edward. She finds an “underprivileged” child, Brenda (AnnJewel Lee Dixon), and makes it her mission to improve her life. She gets a DJ slot at Anne’s favorite college radio station, thereby making an impact on the lives (and ears) of others. She also plays cupid with Anne and station manager Robin (Thomas Sadoski).

Full of hokey life lessons and a series of manipulative moments that we can see coming for miles, “The Last Word” starts out promisingly enough, but soon stoops to Lifetime movie level. One can only hope that there are better roles out there for MacLaine, who makes the most of a mediocre situation, and that The Last Word won’t be her last movie. Rating: C


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