Image Entertainment // 2008 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 25th, 2009
A romantic comedy where opposites attract.
Ignore that generic tagline. The Last Word is a unique, funny, oddly moving romcom.
Wes Bentley stars as Evan, a writer/poet who has cultivated a darkly innovative career. His writing clients seek his help in crafting memorable suicide notes. It's a successful endeavor. Creepy, sure, but it fulfills Evan's artistic longing, while keeping him from confronting his own emotional issues. He lives a secluded existence and remains oddly detached from the fact that his clients are about to off themselves.
Enter Charlotte (Winona Ryder), the sister of his most recently deceased "client." For some reason she takes a romantic interest in Evan and begins an aggressive courtship, despite Evan's reluctance. Eventually, the two forge a tenuous dating relationship, and Evan is constantly challenged with keeping the truth of his unsavory means of gainful employment away from her. Meanwhile Evan's newest client, a depressed, wise-ass musician (Ray Romano), challenges him from another angle, finally making him face his inner turmoil.
See, unique. I enjoyed The Last Word and easily recommend it to anyone who's looking for something different in their romantic comedy. It may not be for everyone, specifically the crowd who may be drawn to the Kate Hudson Hollywood fluff. If you fancy yourself a fan of edgy, intelligent, sort-of dark comedy, there's plenty to unearth, from the complexities of Bentley's Evan, who's played in a laid-back almost deadpan style that pays off with some later emotional outburst and epiphanies to Ryder's feelings-on-her-sleeve Charlotte. Ryder does great work here, crafting an engaging, charismatic character that could have been cliché-ridden.
A large amount of that credit, of course, can be attributed to the sharp script. The writing is funny, dark and affecting, shifting between these tones with surprising dexterity. Often I've seen movies like this, which try to be all genres to all people and they fail wretchedly most of the time. Not The Last Word. The comic touches shift deftly to the dramatic and back again and the result is, well, simply a rewarding, interesting movie. And what a terrific ending.
One last thing: a special accolade to Ray Romano who pursues a role that is on the opposite end of the spectrum of his Everybody Loves Raymond days. He's extremely funny, but it's a humor that is savage. You'll laugh, but you'll feel guilty about it. His character's dynamic with Evan is the major catalyst in his evolution towards being a real person.
The DVD is lightweight, though: an attractive 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and a 2.0 stereo mix is it.
Not guilty. Scope this one out.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R