Ann’Jewel Lee, Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried. Picture: Supplied

There’s a piece of great advice in The Last Word, courtesy of a character who is reluctant to speak ill of an acquaintance: “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, say nothing at all.”

If that standard were to be applied to this movie review, it would render it the world’s shortest piece of film criticism. 

The story of a lonely, ailing and unlovable crank (Shirley MacLaine) who tries to bully a young, socially isolated obituary writer (Amanda Seyfried) into helping her burnish her legacy is just as weird and unrewarding an endeavour as it sounds. 

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The screenplay (by Stuart  Ross Fink) is so phony it seems to have been written by Martian anthropologists with no familiarity with human behaviour.

 

MacLaine chews up the scenery and spits it out as Harriet Lauler, a business executive who has lived her life as if every bridge (and bystander) were to be burnt to the ground, as a matter of course. 

For some MacLaine fans, there might be a perverse pleasure taken in watching her character half-heartedly try to make amends with her mistreated ex-husband (Philip Baker Hall) and an estranged adult daughter (Anne Heche), as Harriet’s chronicler, Anne, tags along.

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There is, however, no joy in watching Harriet’s other sidekick, a African-American girl (Ann’Jewel Lee) treated almost like a piece of property.

This moribund movie doesn’t have a spontaneous, surprising – or genuine – bone in its body. May it rest in peace. – Washington Post