After making its debut at Sundance in 2008, this little movie, the first "full-lengther" from camera-man Geoffrey Haley (shown left), turns out to be -- despite the use of too much coincidence and some not-thought-out-enough content -- quite worth the 94 minutes you'll spend watching it.
THE LAST WORD -- which makes its straight-to-DVD debut today --
involves a young man, Evan, who writes suicide notes for a living. If this job does not yet exist, you can bet a few people will adopt the profession after seeing this movie. As played by the fine young actor Wes Bentley, Evan is a complicated fellow, and his character comes nicely to life as written by Haley and played by Bentley. Opposite him, as the sister of one of Evan's "clients," is Winona Ryder, who is as beautiful as ever (maybe more so as she matures) but not quite up-to-snuff here. This may be more the fault of Haley's not fleshing out her character as thoroughly as that of Evan's, but instead of trying to locate some "specifics," the actress gives in to experiencing many "moments," some of which are played out a tad too heavily. The surprise of the film for me was Ray Romano in the role of the "client" we get to know best. Romano is funny, specific, strong and weird as hell -- much more interesting here than I have yet seen him.
As a writer Haley knows how to pique our interest but not tell too much. Only toward the end do too many coincidences pile up, and an explanation or two (why the brother chose to die is one of these) comes across as both too easy and yet not believable -- given what we already know. Still, the movie held me pretty tightly in it grip because, despite its bizarre situation, it feels so real so much of the time. Haley has come up with an unusual idea and managed to bring it to life; his is a very decent first film.