The Last Word

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Last Word Movie Poster Image
Refreshing comedy about abrasive woman has strong language.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 108 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Appearances can be deceiving, and someone who seems harsh and lonely could have a compelling history that makes them more sympathetic. Basically, you never know what's going on in someone else's life, but friendship can transform anyone. Also, don't be afraid to take risks and push yourself outside your comfort zone; follow your dreams.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While Harriet initially comes across as abrasive and controlling, once you see deeper, it becomes clear that these are just some aspects of the very driven personality that made her a big success -- also, she doesn't suffer fools. She doesn't always model the best behavior for Brenda, but she also clearly cares for the girl and wants to help her. Anne learns to believe in herself and speak up for what she wants.


Heated exchanges. Discussion of death/legacy and some sad moments. A character may have taken the wrong/too much medicine on purpose; she denies it, but it's unclear.


A couple flirts on a date and later kisses. 


Frequent swearing includes "s--t," "bitch," and "f--k." One of the main characters is a sassy young girl who swears with abandon. 


One of the main characters drives a beat-up old Volvo. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character drinks wine frequently, often alone, and sometimes pops prescription pills (there's an overdose scene that's debatably intentional). Other characters drink socially, at bars, or while relaxing at home. 

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMara M. February 5, 2018

The language is very mature.

The casual use of ‘s**t’ is one thing, but the cursing is over the top. We shouldn’t take this too lightly.
Adult Written byad a. January 11, 2018
Teen, 16 years old Written byJed VRG April 27, 2018

Good story, but with mature language

I really enjoyed this movie, apart from the language. Definitely a movie for 15+ viewers as the language is for a mature audience. Really good story though, and... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bySkyeQuake8163 April 7, 2017

Very confused by the R rating

Beautiful movie! Must see for tweens and up! Slower paced movie but amazing!

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love friendship stories

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate