The Last Word Review – Solid, Performance Driven, Entertainment

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The Last Word, from Bleecker Street Media, presents a classic timeless story of finding the missing pieces that, through discordant beginnings, are fine tuned into melodies, that somehow find the right blends, the harmonies, that becomes treasured memories. 

Directed by Mark Pellington, The Last Word stars Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfried, Ann'Jewel Lee, Thomas Sadoski, Philip Baker Hall, Anne Hache, Tom Everett Scott, Gedde Wantanabe, Yevette Freeman and Sam Culp.

The Last Word begins with a montage of photos of a young Shirley MacLaine and travels through the years until we arrive at the present which is where we meet Harriet Lauler, a retired, executive of some kind, as we aren't aware yet of her accomplishments.

What we do know early is that Harriet is finicky. She is eccentric, persnickety and expects, no demands, that the world raise its bar to accommodate her. She plans her death, which doesn't have the ending she expected and in the end, is speaking to the doctor, explaining it wasn't really what it looked like.

A spilled glass of wine, leads to a revelation: soon she will die and if she doesn't handle the situation, first, her obituary will be left up to some unfeeling, uncaring, and according to Harriet probably unskilled obituary writer.

So now, with a new mission and task at hand, Harriet is driven to meet the deadline. Which is when we meet our too young newspaper CEO, Ronald Odom, played by Tom Everett Scott, the son of Harriet's contemporary and as she explains, as she is the reason the paper is still in business today she is here for repayment.

With a presentation, as effective and persuasive as Harriet's our too young newspaper CEO moves quickly to accommodate her demand which is where we meet Anne Sherman, played by Amanda Seyfried.

Anne, we find early is independent and doesn't take well to female authority and throughout the film we finally understand where that comes from. She is in control, a paid writer, working on the local newspaper, with some recognition and she, as her subjects are usually deceased, is in the odd place of sitting across from Harriet, who has placed herself at the CEO's desk, and has been given the assignment of memorializing this impossible woman.

Without a choice, Anne, sets off on the assignment speaking with anyone who could provide something good to say about this demanding, brash and as she explains someone who "puts the bitch" in obituary.

So after one weekend of work, she ends up back at Harriet's with a paragraph. Defensively she explains it's not my writing it's the subject. Accepting the challenge of legacy, Harriet ups the ante and pays Ms. Sherman a visit explaining the necessary elements of a good obit.

Anne decides the best way to end this is to prove she is right and a writer and just take the demanding Harriet up on the challenge, which she is sure will send her back to her life and out of hers.

As Harriet explains, she needs a hooligan to reform and soon we meet Brenda, played by Ann'Jewel Lee, and with that there is only one element left and that is meeting her estranged daughter, Elizabeth, played by Anne Hache.

Soon this uncomfortable assignment becomes a comfortable friendship with the lessons of life finally finding a welcome recipient. 

The meeting scene with Ms. Hache and Ms. MacLaine steals the show.

Harriet has one more gig left in her and after Anne explains this totally cool radio station, "Independent rock for Independent minds," and no one more independent that Harriet, she and her nine-year-old intern Brenda, head on over to the indie radio station which is where we meet Station Manger Robin Sands, played by Thomas Sadoski.

Harriet persuades him to give her the morning rock block and our obit writer Anne finds out that her independent thinking, 81-year-old, friend has somehow talked her way into morning slot and is now the voice of rock in inland California.

It was an assignment than a family, a daughter, mother, friend, and for one moment, one brief clear moment the tugging, and pulling, the eccentricity, nonconformity, unconventionality from our own plans and ideas of how life will move, what path will work, how the end will be or how it will all unfold, evaporates.

The Last Word is genuinely a good, feel good film, with a twist. Finding friends, lovers, family that can understand you and accept your quirks, eccentricities, and attitudes and turn all that into lasting relationships is a rare thing.

Throughout the film the element of classic is played, the fine wine, and nowhere more so than with the music; from Anne Sherman's discovery of hidden vinyl which become a trip back in time "these are so cool" to Ms. MacLaine's handling of the albums, carefully taking them out of their hiding place, bringing them forward to a rightful place, dusting them off and suddenly finding a new home, in a new generation for these classic hits.

It's been some time since we've seen Ms. MacLaine, some may remember her performance in Terms of Endearment which she received an Oscar, she now, at 82, delivered an impeccable and on point performance. She was able to generate the sympathy of the audience as those newfound friendships filled the years of voids that her compatriots, in the army of three determined, mold breaking, strong females, became.

The cast moves together in fine harmony, Amanda Seyfried, Ann'Jewel Lee, and Ms. MacLaine create a harmonious symphony as they travel throughout this film. The entrance of Anne Hache, the notes which lead to a crescendo, and Thomas Sadoski, which bring color and the melodies of life.

The Last Word is solid entertainment and is in theaters everywhere. See it for the talent, for the story and for the music.

 

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