El Refugio

A place on the web for escapism.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Flix - The Last Word

The Last Word (2008)

I have a page with my favorite flix listed here. Today, I'll introduce a film that's a bit of thinker, but not as heavy as I'd anticipated.  The Last Word, (2008). I don't want to spoil it for you, so I'll only give the basic setup: quiet loner Evan (played by Wes Bentley) writes suicide notes for a living, helping out the less poetic on their way to a peaceful grave.  For a lot of people, that sort of topic is probably pretty off-putting. Starring Winona Ryder, Wes Bentley and Ray Romano, the film moves along quietly, thoughtfully, always touching on impending suicide, paired with poetry and  compassion.

As with a mystery, I  tried to figure out who was gonna die a first. I'll be honest, this film deals with issues of death and suicide in a remarkably easy manner. Even when it grapples with morality issues, it is not so deep as to plunge you into the depths of depression. It is neither a comedy, nor is it the downer I cautiously anticipated. Bentley portrays deeply introverted Evan, with Winona Ryder opposite.

Ok, I'm not real wild about Ray Romano. Maybe 'cause I don't really like stand up comedy  and downright hate sitcoms. Romano is at best a third in the acting lineup for The Last Word, though his role is critical in fleshing out the main character, Evan. Romano plays an altogether uncomedic role, with only two real chuckles (one involving "harmless Stress Reduction").  In this serious role, we get to hear Romano swear (mildly), and see a different side of him. 

One of my favorite quotes from the movie was when Romano's character, Abel, says:
Abel: I love music. I just wish I didn't need it to pay the bills.
Evan: Yeah, but if you didn't write music what would you do? Right?
Abel: I would buy a cliff.
Much to my relief, Romano did not ruin this film. 

This movie does use the telephone and answering machines to help move it along, but judiciously, and thankfully--no cell phones. In a couple of scenes, we catch glimpses of LA murals. A local may be able to pinpoint the filming locations based on the murals, but in the movie they are as unimportant bits of backdrop as  the tattoo parlors, XXX shops and dim bars lining the street.

I liked this movie, but I am already replaying it in my mind with Ryder & Romano's parts cast with complete nobodies, who give us as good or better results. Seriously. Winona Ryder is beautiful and plays her part well enough. The vigor of her character, Charlotte, plays well in contrast to Evan's unaffected solitude. Maybe being set in LA, we have to have a truly beautiful leading lady (and Ryder is that), but I am inclined to think I'd like to see a more everyday sort of woman in the role.

On my rating scale, The Last Word rates a full 3.75 stars (out of a possible 5).

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