Rated: R for language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: March 17, 2017 Released by: Bleecker Street Media
The great qualities that have defined a 'grand dame' of an actress like Shirley MacLaine are up on the screen in Mark Pellington's The Last Word though the soft, dainty qualities of the material resist her spitfire tenacity.
The early portion of Word is at its best when MacLaine's retiree of a very successful ad agency, Harriett, flouts her insouciant imperiousness. The co-star of 'smaller' films like Bernie assures a witty commanding presence when opposite the likes of her gardener (Gedde Watanabe) of her palatial residence in fictional Bristol, California.
The wine-swilling saturnine octogenarian has the opportunity to fulfill the moniker to try and make her legacy more attractive as she proves to be an undeterred interloper at the local paper and a radio station. Thanks to the help of an editor (Tom Everett Scott) who sees potential profit from her business after her passing a wannabe essayist and obituary writer Anne (Amanda Seyfried) is the lucky person to find all the glowing stuff about someone who could be her grandmother.
But, including the priest, nothing flattering is showered on a salty woman who exacted high standards from all around her. So, she and Anne will bond while going on a bucket list to make her remembrance more like what she's read about the deceased in The Gazette. The problem here is Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies, Arlington Road) can't get the clichéd, corny clinks out of the screenplay besides lending authenticity from the production end mainly on the musical and design scaling (like Anne's less than desirable digs at this point in her career).
The Last Word tries to match Harriett's passion with the much younger (pre-pubescent) Brenda (AnneJewel Lee Dixon) being an "at risk" minority befriended after her naughtiness when it comes to the Dewey Decimal System. The credibility dissipates at a pretty good clip as the syrup is ladled on and a road trip aimed against being wronged just doesn't hit the right emotional beats. MacLaine obviously enjoys being active in her vocation at her age, but it doesn't do her good here when she's fondly remembered from the early younger clips of her. Ultimately, with essentially Seyfried and young whippersnapper in Lee Dixon wasted here, the way Harriett has lived her life why would she care what anyone truly thinks about her?