Shirley MacLaine plays an octogenarian control freak who enlists Amanda Seyfried’s obit writer to reshape how she will be remembered in Mark Pellington’s comedy with tears.
Pretty much the minute the three generations of feisty females bond in The Last Word, you know that sooner or later they’re going to take a slow-mo power walk wearing cool sunglasses. But if you must make another entirely predictable comedy about an unapologetic old white curmudgeon who steamrolls all opposition, you can’t do better than draft the redoubtable Shirley MacLaine to keep audiences in her barbed corner while we wait for her inevitable bittersweet humanization.
Casting is everything in director Mark Pellington’s latest, with MacLaine in blazingly fine form as she dignifies the movie’s every pre-programmed emotional cue while blossoming from dragon lady into nurturing giver of life lessons.
Much like last year’s cute but condescending Sally Field vehicle, Hello, My Name Is Doris, this Bleecker Street release could score some indulgent reviews and spark respectable niche box-office numbers for one very good reason — it provides a meaty showcase for a beloved American actress of a certain age to do what she does best. Pellington clearly understands what a rare reward that is, refreshing our affection with a gorgeous opening-titles sequence that threads together photographs of MacLaine’s character — but really of the star herself — through the decades. If everyone else in the movie is merely along for the ride, at least they’re in stellar company.