“The Last Word”
Release Date: March 3, 2017 (limited)
MPAA Rating: R (for language)
Despite sharing the title, this film has nothing to do with the MSNBC news program hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell.
The film does, however, have everything to do with the formation of friendship between Harriet Lauler, an elderly former business woman (Shirley MacLaine) and Anne Sherman, a budding young writer (Amanda Seyfried). Much of the conflict in this comedy comes from the controlling nature of Lauler as she spars with Sherman, a woman who is desperately seeking to not be controlled.
The two characters meet when the businesswoman enlists the young newspaper obituary writer to pen her life story, essentially allowing her to approve the obit before the time comes for it to be published, thus having the last word.
This is a tour de force performance for MacLaine, who runs the gamut of emotions and offers a fascinating character study. She could be a strong contender during next award season, if critics and award voters are reminded of the film at the end of the year. Seyfried, on the other hand, seems too obvious in her performance, offering some acting choices that don’t always work. \
Director Mark Pellington, working from a screenplay by Stuart Ross Fink, delivers a film that is, in turns, hilarious, poignant, and ultimately uplifting. At times it seems formulaic, and Pellington certainly knows which buttons to push for maximum emotional impact.
“The Last Word” is worth seeing if only to experience an often bold performance by MacLaine, one of the last big screen talents of her generation, whose skills appeal to all ages.