This one took me by surprise. I see a lot of movies, but before I went in to this, I don’t recall seeing a single trailer for this one in theatres. I saw that a theatre was playing it and I had to go on Youtube to watch it. I never know why that happens. Does marketing just fail at life, or are there other reasons? Oh well, moving on.
So I guess this movie is about this no-nonsense older businesswoman who enlists the help of a young obituary writer to write her obituary early. The writer agrees and talks to everyone that knows this woman and no one has anything nice to say about her. Eager to change that, the woman sets out to change everyone’s minds and develops a relationship with the young woman and a random black kid. Anyone else feel like this movie’s been done before? “Oh no! I’m not liked?! I need to change this!” I can’t think of a movie that did this, but I feel like I have this movie pegged. I guess I’m about to find out.
Starring in this, we have Shirley MacLaine, known for VALENTINE’S DAY (2010), RUMOR HAS IT… (2005), and STEEL MAGNOLIAS (1989), and will be featured in the upcoming THE LITTLE MERMAID (2017). I feel like I should know this woman, and while I’ve heard her name before and seen some of the movies she’s been in, I don’t think I remember her in many of them. Wasn’t she Jennifer Aniston’s grandmother in RUMOR HAS IT…? Either way, should be educational. Next up, Amanda Seyfried, known for TED 2 (2015), EPIC (2013), and MAMMA MIA! (2008). Kind of hard not to know this woman. She’s had a pretty impressive career… or, one that had her in a lot of movies full of great marketing and acclaim and more than one popular musical. Funny enough, everyone knows her name and face, I don’t think anyone can pinpoint that role that made her an A-list star. Kinda weird. In any case, I’m not her biggest fan, but I have no issues with her. She’s a fine enough actress. Finally, we have AnnJewel Lee Dixon, making her feature film debut. Congrats, young lady. Other talents include Thomas Sadoski (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 , WILD , and TV show LIFE IN PIECES), Philip Baker Hall (BAD WORDS , 50/50 , and ZODIAC ), Anne Heche (CATFIGHT , SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY , and SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS ) and Joel Murray (MONSTERS UNIVERSITY , GOD BLESS AMERICA , and TV show MAD MEN).
Now for behind the scenes. Directing is Mark Pellington, known for HENRY POOLE IS HERE (2008), a few episodes of the TV show BLINDSPOT, and a bunch of short videos, and penning the screenplay is Stuart Ross Fink, making his feature-film debut. Congrats, sir.
Overall, I wasn’t especially excited for this, but it looked entertaining enough. Now that I’ve seen it, how does it hold up?
This is my honest opinion of: THE LAST WORD
Harriet (Shirley MacLaine) was once a tough and independent businesswoman, but has since retired. But that doesn’t stop her from wanting to control every single solitary thing around her. After having a stroke and coming home, she ends up catching sight of the obituary page in a newspaper. She then hatches an idea to go down to the local newspaper and hires young writer Anne to write Harriet’s obituary now, to know what would be said about her. Despite Anne’s objections, she scours around for the people that knew Harriet, but can’t find a single person that has anything remotely nice to say about her. Displeased with how much she’s unliked, she sets out with Anne to paint herself in a better light.
And I was right. This was not a good movie. In fact, this was a pretty bad.
The movie starts off pretty much like one of those movies: it’s trying to create a character that you’re purposely not supposed to like when the character’s introduced, but as the story progresses you grow attached to them. Here’s the problem. I never grew to like the character Harriet. This woman spends the entire run time of the movie being horribly despicable and terribly unlikable. She treats everyone like crap. Her doctor, her help around her property, all of them are treated miserably. Long story short, she never changes throughout the movie. She remains the same bitch character that she’d always been throughout the movie. She had no real character arc, or not one that I acknowledge.
To make matters worse a lot of the story, especially in the first act, makes absolutely no sense. Not since THE BRONZE (2016) have I seen a movie that is completely devoid of consequences when a character makes a decision. Harriet will literally walk into a newspaper office with a demeanor that says, “Why are you not expecting me?” The boss is perfectly accepting of the situation, stripped of all authority because of bad screenwriting. And then she will demand to see an employee as if she has any real authority. Why doesn’t this boss guy call the police? And this is a problem that I keep asking about throughout the entire first act, but we’ll get there. When she meets Anne for the first time, she basically just states, “I’m hiring you and you’re going to work for me,” and Anne has absolutely no objection, or she has plenty of an objection, but she doesn’t say anything. She just blindly goes with it and she has no motivation to do so. She could easily say “no” and that would solve everything. What would Harriet do if Anne said no? She would have to accept it. And we never see Anne sign a contract or anything. How much is Anne getting paid? We never know that!
Of course, Anne being a dumb twat who can’t say no to an eighty-year-old bitch, she goes and talks with everyone prescribed to her; all the people Harriet’s interacted with over the course of her life. Of course, no one says anything nice and Anne writes the obituary. Once again, piling on the terrible reasons why Harriet is not a likable character, is floored by how unliked she was in her life. But instead of coming to the realization that maybe she was a bad person, she blames Anne for bad writing, even though she had absolutely nothing to do with it. But if that wasn’t enough, Harriet kicks her out of the house and then later hunts her down and practically breaks into Anne’s home. And piling on the many reasons why Anne is a dumbass, she allows this to happen. She doesn’t call the police, she doesn’t even struggle she just accepts that a woman is breaking into her home. Don’t know about the rest of you, but if someone barges into my home, my first reaction would be calling the police.
You see the big problem here? This almost sounds like a cartoon. A really bad cartoon. In fact, wasn’t this a string of episodes from JESSICA JONES; the bad guy trying to be a good guy? But forgetting that for a second, this movie is completely dependent on how much you can suspend your disbelief. If you can miraculously forgive these blatant jumps of logic, then I guess you’ll like this movie fine. But if you’re anything like me, and disregard for common sense and smart characters isn’t something that can be overlooked, then guess fucking what, this movie is going to blow some major chunks!
And I’ve barely gotten out of the first act of the movie!
In retrospect the idea for this movie isn’t even all that bad, but it should have been a different movie. If I wanted to write this script come come up with a better story, Harriet would go to jail after breaking into Anne’s home, and she would have to live with the fact that she is now in a world that doesn’t play by her rules or the rules that she thinks should be in place. There’s possibilities here, but… no, the ball was dropped almost like there was no effort to catch it in the first place. Or… maybe it was caught, but not examined. Just looked at and… “ball” and that’s all that was needed, I don’t know, man. I don’t know analogies. At this point, I’m trying to tell a joke to entertain myself better than this movie did.
They did almost everything wrong with this movie. The characters are stupid, occasionally cartoonish in presentation, the the story makes such little sense, hell, even the score is really inappropriate at times. So I guess this is a hard pass and complete avoid, right? Um… mostly yes, but there are a few things that I think are somewhat worth noting.
First off, the acting is convincing. I don’t see MacLaine on screen, I see Harriet. I don’t see Seyfried up there, I see Anne. In fact, this might be one of Seyfried’s better performances that I’ve seen in a long time. Granted, I haven’t seen many of her movies to draw comparisons to, but I thought she was fine. Also, the scene-stealer, young Dixon is a blast. I mean, foul-mouthed kid characters aren’t anything new anymore, thanks in large part to Hit-Girl from KICK-ASS (2010), but she definitely stole the show for me any time she was on screen. So much sass in such a small package, but I loved it. And I will never forget that McDonalds exchange in the car.
Who wants McDonalds?
Here ya go, darlin’.
That girl just cracks me up. Here’s to a long, safe, and awesome career for this child. And really, any exchange between Brenda and Anne is really good. There’s this scene in this motel room where they’re talking about their families that aren’t there for them. They bond and let it go, accepting who they are. It’s a really sweet and funny scene and I loved that.
And I do give credit to the movie, I want the soundtrack. The music they play is really nice.
But the good moments are so far inbetween, and they aren’t really enough to save it from being bad. While I know this movie is objectively a better movie than THE BRONZE, it’s still in the same ballpark of shit storytelling. I wish the actors all the best in future projects, which I’m sure they don’t need, but this movie is… I can’t do it. I say, don’t spend your money on it. I don’t even think it’s worth a rental. I wager I’m in the minority of people who hate this movie, but I think if this passes over your radar, don’t worry about it.
My honest rating for THE LAST WORD: 2/5