By Anna Power
An intergenerational female friendship flick with some nice ideas at its core but like so many others panders to schmaltz in its execution, though not unenjoyably so.
Octogenarian Harriet Lauler (Shirley MacLaine) lives a loveless life. Her days roll on relentlessly; her pristine home a prison of sorts and you get a disturbing sense of the vacuum around her routine of lonely meals and frustrated gazing out the window over lengthy lawns at life. Filling the void with prescription pills and copious bottles of red wine, to the point where a doctor questions whether she may be intentionally trying to overdose, her boredom results in the micromanaging of her beleaguered staff in their cooking and hedge trimming activities. In the midst of this, by chance she reads an obituary written by Anne Sherman (Amanda Seyfried) in the local newspaper and decides to have The Last Word on her life.
Fuelled by the desire to posthumously look good on paper she now has a purpose. With this the work of stomping over burnt bridges whilst hastily constructing new ones begins, including starting a career as a retro radio DJ inspired by her new young friend (Seyfried) and becoming mentor to a sassy inner city African-American kid called Brenda. Finally her life finds meaning and more importantly love and connection again.
A fairly prescriptive journey of the genre type, but MacLaine is meat enough on the bone to make it juicy. She does bombastic exceedingly well as we’ve seen in previous roles in Steel Magnolias and Terms of Endearment but the script and its neat hospital corners and plot ties grate terribly towards the end. It presses all the right emotionally rousing buttons but is ultimately unsubstantial.
It is warming to watch Harriet turn her obvious character flaws of controlling behaviour and blatant disregard for convention, not to mention people’s feelings, into strengths and her tenacity born out of competing in a man’s world lends weight to her character’s sympathy and creates fun friction with sensible and equally frustrated Seyfried’s Anne.
Ultimately though it’s puddle-thin depth and superficial feminist leanings deprive us of a potentially interesting story and more intimate character studies of its protagonist and her new found life-affirming female friendship. What remains though is a watchable fun, fluffy feel-good film that is totally forgettable.
The Last word is in cinemas from Friday 3rd July.