Don’t bother with this story of a woman who looks to rewrite her life story in her final days

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In “The Last Word,” an octoganerian woman looks to rewrite her life story in her final months so that her obituary will make her seem more friendly. It’s a concept as shallow as “The Last Word” itself.

Shirley MacLaine is Harriet, a strong-willed former advertising executive who isn’t remembered fondly by many. But she still has clout in her California town, enough so that she muscles her way into the local newspaper to assign Anne (Amanda Seyfried), an idealistic young obituary writer, to author her story.

MacLaine’s Harriet comes up with a blueprint and decides she should mentor a young child, preferably a minority, for sympathy points. So the movie whips up Brenda (AnnJewel Lee Dixon), an at-risk kid from a local youth program, who is essentially adopted by Harriet (and Anne, who apparently has an extremely flexible work schedule).

Harriet then barges into a local radio station and demands an on-air shift, and magically gets one, because that’s how the radio business works. “The Last Word” is full of these sort of conveniences and contrivances, and is almost impossible to take seriously.

At one point Harriet, Anne and Brenda go swimming late at night and cackle uncontrollably at the sheer craziness of it all because they’re alive, or whatever, and “The Last Word” is celebrating life, man. Or at least it thinks it is. Actuality, it’s as shrill and calculated as its lead character, and doesn’t have an ounce of spirit or whimsy in its DNA.

Even when surrounded by junk, the 83-year-old MacLaine still has plenty of pep. She’s a treasure, but “The Last Word” doesn’t do her or her legacy justice. This story needs a rewrite.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘The Last Word’

GRADE: D+

Rated R: for language

Running time: 108 minutes

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