Monday, 14 August 2017

Film: 'The Last Word'

Increasingly guilty of starting my reviews by justifying why I bothered to see a particular film, here's another one. It has as 'one of' its main stars Shirley MacLaine - and I do like to see our Shirl! 
I put 'one of' in apostrophes because in the opening credits both she and Amanda Seyfried are given equal prominence - the latter name placed second in the same frame but positioned higher. (Dear me! - Amanda who?) However, I suppose for much of today's audience Shirley MacLaine won't be well known - if she's even recognised at all!  

MacLaine plays an octogenarian, divorced and long-since retired businesswoman living alone in a massive Californian mansion. She has one daughter, Anne Heche, who appears only in a single speaking scene, not much over five minutes long. 
MacLaine, feeling that her end is approaching, and not only on account of her advanced age, hires Seyfried, the obituary writer of the local regional newspaper, to write a flattering obituary of herself in double-quick time so that she herself can sanction it. Their initial meeting is tetchy, each taking an instant dislike to the other, with Maclaine being odiously bossy from the start, though she is paying good money for the job to be done properly. She gives Seyfried a long list of people she has known, only for it to be found that when approached, none of them have a good word to say about MacLaine, that is if they are even prepared to talk about her.

Predictable as sunrise - and such as happens time and time again in the film world - the initially hostile relationship between the two women mellows and burgeons into, by the end, a strong friendship with reciprocal respect. No surprise there then.

One additional irritating aspect of the film is the inclusion of a worldly-wise, potty-mouthed little brat of a black kid, female (though for a long time I wasn't sure), about 10 years old, whom MacLaine befriends to make up a trio with the other two women - and whose presence, in my view, would be improved no end by being delivered of a damn good slap.

Also, MacLaine becomes a DJ on local radio (yes!) playing her old vinyl LPs - she never having really caught up with CDs.
(Was 'The Kinks' really the most under-rated pop group of all time? I hardly think so.)

It's also hardly a revelation for the film to reveal that the MacLaine character was not, in fact, as dire as she'd been painted, and that there were (unfair) reasons as to why she'd made so many enemies. 

Director Mark Pellington, whom I only remember through the rather good 'Arlington Road' (1999), does reasonably enough with this, but there's nothing extra-special to make it stand out. And this is yet another film which would have benefited from being shorn of at least twenty minutes. 

Not quite as dire as it might have been, but it may well have gone lower in my rating if someone other than Shirley MacLaine had starred..........4.


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