The Last Word

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 13, 2017

The Last Word

Shirley MacLaine is a national treasure. She's been making movies since her 1955 debut in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Trouble With Harry." Within five years she would make "Some Came Running" and "The Apartment."

It's quite strange that her last Oscar nomination (and win) was for 1983's "Terms of Endearment," since she's given so many wonderful performances since ("Postcards From the Edge" and "Steel Magnolias" to name but two.) MacLaine just turned 83 and has gifted film lovers another treat: A rich and deeply nuanced turn as Harriet Lauler, a once savvy businesswoman (at a time when they weren't really allowed to exist) who is looking back at her life, accomplishments and relationships and asking tough questions.

"The Last Word" follows Harriet as she lassoes a young obituary writer (Amanda Seyfried, forever adorable) to pen hers while she is still kicking. The only issue seems to be that no one has anything nice to say about Harriet. She's alienated all her former co-workers, is estranged from her daughter, and even her priest "hates" her.

The film boasts solid work from some terrific actors including Anne Heche, Thomas Sadoski, Tom Everett Scott, Philip Baker Hall, and a scene-stealing Annjewel Lee Majestic Dixon as an inner city child Harriet decides to mentor so her obit will reflect her magnanimity. I just wish the roles were more fleshed out.

Directed by Mark Pellington and written by Stuart Ross Fink, the film is often too formulaic and takes too much of a predictable route-especially in the second half.


When are filmmakers going to realize that just because an actor is old doesn't mean they have to die in their films?

But it's an enjoyable diversion, deliberately dark at times and made better by MacLaine's fascinating and invested performance.

The film has a drab look to it and the Blu-ray reflects that. The audio does do justice to the terrific soundtrack filled with lost gems, including "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks.

There are no Special Features, just six trailers for other Bleecker Street films.

It's a shame that the still-all-too-young-white-straight-male blogcrix dismissed the film earlier in the year, but everyone has a chance to seek "The Last Word" out and celebrate one of our most lasting screen legends prove she still has the ability to enthrall for two hours.

"The Last Word"

Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD



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Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide ( and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.