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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last Word is a dramedy about an abrasive, wealthy, retired woman (Shirley MacLaine) who decides she wants to reinvent herself/improve her legacy before she dies. This leads to a friendship with a young newspaper obituary writer (Amanda Seyfried) and turns the movie into a female-focused buddy/road-trip film. The main issue here is strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," and more, some of which is said by a young girl. There's also some drinking, a possible pill overdose, and some flirting/kissing, but the swearing is the the biggest red flag -- and is the sole reason for the film's R rating.
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What's the story?
Harriet Lauler (Shirley MacLaine) was once a big success in the advertisting world -- mainly because she was almost always right and made sure everyone else knew it. That driven personality made her rich, but it also pushed a lof of people away. And now that she's a wealthy retiree, Harriet spends her days mostly alone. After a medical scare, she becomes obsessed with what might eventually end up in her obituary and decides to leave nothing to chance. So Harriet hires Anne (Amanda Seyfried), a local newspaper writer, to draft her obituary so she can approve it while she's still alive. This task is made more difficult by the dearth of people willing to discuss Harriet's past, but, as Anne discovers, there may be more to the elderly woman's life story. What will THE LAST WORD on Harriet really be?
Is it any good?
It's hard to overstate the importance of chemistry, especially in an intimate, personal film like this one, which succeeds largely due to the charm and rapport of its cast. Most notable of them all is MacLaine, who presides over the proceedings with confidence and command, a potent combination that keeps viewers glued to the screen. Simply put, there are very few actors who have such mastery over their craft. Her wit has crackle, her bite has heart.
And MacLaine is backed fully by the supporting cast, Seyfried and AnnJewel Lee Dixon (as Brenda, the precocious, profane 9-year-old whom Harriet befriends) chief among them. The storyline of The Last Word is steeped in sentimentality -- a hard-edged woman faces her mortality and finds renewal in the unlikeliest of places -- but it's winning nonetheless.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the swearing in The Last Word. Do you think it was necessary to the story? Is language alone enough to make a movie too edgy for some viewers?
Why do you think so many people dislike Harriet? Does it mean she's a terrible person? Or is there more going on? How does what you learn about her over the course of the film affect your opinion of her? Do you consider her a role model?
The last part of the film centers on a road trip to see a long-estranged family member. How is this movie similar to/different from other road-trip movies? Why do you think there aren't more female-centered road-trip films?
What role does Brenda play in Harriet's journey? Is it funny or uncomfortable to hear a child actor using strong language? Why?
- In theaters: March 3, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: June 6, 2017
- Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Shirley MacLaine, Thomas Sadoski
- Director: Mark Pellington
- Studio: Bleeker Street
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Humility
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.