Last Word, The (DVD Review)22 Mar, 2009 By: John Latchem
Prebook 3/24/09; Street 4/21/09
$27.98 DVD, $35.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language.
Stars Wes Bentley, Winona Ryder, Ray Romano.
When it comes to Hollywood, some films just seem to fall through the cracks. The Last Word premiered at the Sundance film festival in 2008 but never received a wide release.
The dialogue is witty and sharp, the performances are first-rate, and it probably would have made a modest showing at the box office. But home video should give this wonderfully quirky indie a chance to shine.
The film begins with the inflection of a dark comedy with macabre undertones and slowly reveals itself with the drama of a painful romance. It tells the story of two artistic souls on opposite journeys toward life and death.
Evan (Wes Bentley) is a failed freelance writer who hires himself out as a ghostwriter to depressed people contemplating suicide, and writes their goodbye notes (one even wins a poetry award). Evan proves good at capturing the essence of a suicide note since he’s already tuned out of the world and seems to represent the literal voice of the afterlife. He even attends the funerals of his clients just to hear his words read as a final eulogy.
On one occasion he meets his former client’s sister, Charlotte (Winona Ryder), who reaches out to him with hopes of understanding more about her brother. Charlotte is a sexy free spirit, but Evan is unsure how to proceed. He dares not tell her the truth of how he knows her family.
That Charlotte would draw him out of the darkness is understandable. Ryder is excellent in the role, energizing every scene she’s in with a light comedic touch not many would expect from her.
Another of Evan’s clients is Abel (Ray Romano), a composer who writes the music played over the telephone when people are put on hold. His life has been on a downward spiral since a failed attempt at a symphony after college, and he’s ready to end it. Abel proves an apt foil for Evan, as both have seen their creative spark subverted by the bad taste of commercialism.
Perhaps the powers that be felt audiences weren’t ready to see Romano tackle a more serious role, though he is quite good. Like Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love, Romano’s performance demonstrates that the difference between manic and comedic is a fine line.