Ahhhhh…the weekly worry in the old folks’ home. Legacy. How will we be remembered? Will my lifetime of tip-top quality spreadsheets sit alongside John Wayne’s contribution to film? Will Old Clive’s days as the Romeo of the Bristol bin men outpace Nigel Farage’s years of dumping intellectual thought into moron bins in the twattosphere? Is it too late to fix things? And what’s the point, anyway?
I wheeled Mad Maud into the TV room, freshly tightening the bonds on her straitjacket (okay, it’s a cardigan, but the arms got wet, so we can tie her to the chair). It was the morning after Dizzy Dot choked to death on her own phlegm, gurgling angrily about how little her life had meant. We were all feeling a bit tender and – as it turned out – quietly welcomed this latest entry to Crumbly Film Template 3: “Don’t give up yet, you old fart” (see A Man Called Ove for 2017’s best).
The Last Word stars Shirley MacLaine, whose level of public sanity would be most welcome in the home, as a control freak of a certain age, dispensed with by job and society, toying with suicide before rage and hope drive her to change her obituary. She is hard work for all she encounters – and takes blank-faced flat-affect to Harrison Ford levels – but fixes herself and those around her with splendid ill-grace. The “bitch in obituary”. Wonderful.
Amanda Seyfried plays the eulogist for the local paper, torn up by her own failure to be anything. She is immensely likeable, gives a face-pullingly natural turn, doesn’t sing, and is the unlived, bullied heart of the film. She has a dream that needs a plane ticket. Guess the ending.
Then there’s AnnJewel Lee Dixon, who plays a disadvantaged kid with the sass and dance moves to make a star. She’s fab and made us all roar with grandparenty laughter. She doesn’t need fixing so much as directing, and crazy old MacLaine leaves her with a telling message for life. She’s the handy needy kid at the start, which makes you draw breath, but she blasts that out of the water by the end of her first sentence.
Together they all march through a plot you will have sussed quicker than old Clive’s morning shit. MacLaine shifts her life up a gear. Seyfried spends two weeks being shaped whilst writing a pappy eulogy. MacLaine becomes a D.J., confronts her daughter (Anne Heche doing a glorious across-the-table impression of MacLaine), shoves Seyfried into a relationship and goes for the quad of eulogy perfection: family love, colleagues’ admiration, a touch of the Obi Wan’s and a ‘wild-card’ of wonderfulness so obvious it is only saved by Seyfried being so real, adorable and pained. And not singing. (Did I mention she doesn’t sing in this film?)
They go on a road trip. They bond in a motel. They get home and dance…and then they need the eulogy. Surprised?
Mad Maud sobbed her way through the whole film, though this was probably a morphine-low. Old Jack…was rather charmed. There was little to actively piss me off, forgiving the set-up, plot, character-beats and ending. And there was a light touch on the bigger debate for us crumblies in the TV room.
So. Yes. Old Jack enjoyed this legacy-building fantasy. Ultimately, it gave me hope that a life will be remembered if you want it to be – and you make the effort. And the point is in the trying and the friends you make along the way.
So – that’s me off to Wanko’s strip-club to guide some needy souls. I’ll tell them it was all done by hand in my day and see where things go.
Get thee to Netflix.