By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Life is not always a bed of roses for three generations of unlikely individuals coming together in The Last Word. Here, this film shows not everyone finds happiness (the lead looks like she has a very lonely life), other folks may well feel stuck in what to do with the rest of their lives because of a dead end job and for the kids, the growing pains are varied. This movie written by Stuart Ross Fink and directed by Mark Pellington explores possible reasons for why some people you meet in life are the way they are.
Octogenarian Harriet Lauler (perfectly played by Shirley MacLaine) is cantankerous and ill-tempered. Just how she survived in a man’s world is because she was willing to burn bridges and fight against the norm (in the 40’s and 50’s) in order to succeed in the business world. Her controlling nature earned her a reputation, and when she realizes she’s at her twilight, something has to change. After reading a death notice in a newspaper, she visits the office and recruits a 20-something writer Anne Sherman (Amanda Seyfried) to pen her obituary. Her job at the newspaper is not a glorious one, but as a droll obit writer, it pays the bills. Lauler wants to be positively remembered and Sherman has her work cut out for her.
As the film progresses, the bonding between the two becomes heartfelt and you learn more about Lauler. The addition of a very young and rambunctious Brenda (AnnJewel Lee Dixon) she takes in is not as developed. She exists more like an idea to show the torch must always be passed and there’s very little expansion of her back story to really care. Although the narrative is predictable and clichéd, I was drawn in to how these Lauler and Sherman develop for the better. Pellington’s pacing and direction kept me interested in seeing this movie all the way through — and I figured out why movies, “Gods of Egypt,” “Deadpool,” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” was on the marquee of the movie theater they walked by. This events in this movie took place early Feb 2016.
To see how Lauler affects the people she’s taken into her life may seem calculating, but in reality she recognizes they have untapped potential which she tries to bring out. She went to the newspaper’s office to seek Sherman and there were plenty of kids she could have mentored. However, she saw something in Brenda which piqued her interest.
While her approach is cynical, Lauler has well-meaning goals and this film succeeds in showing we should never judge a person by their colour, action or words until we get to really know them.
3½ Stars out of 5