“The Last Word” is one of those indie comedy-dramas that unfolds quietly over 100 minutes, and by the time it’s over, you wonder why anyone even bothered to make it in the first place. First off, leading man Wes Bentley is miscast as a writer of suicide notes: His occupation is creepy and off-putting which makes it hard to get the audience on his side, and Bentley’s charmless, somnambulant performance never finds a consistent tone. As his romantic interest (and sister of one of Bentley’s latest clients, unbeknownst to her), Winona Ryder delivers a strong and committed performance, but it’s all in vain: At no point does it ever become clear why Ryder’s character would throw herself so shamelessly at a bore like Bentley, so you just end up feeling bad for her. It’s like writer-director Geoffrey Haley wrote a comedy but shot it as a drama, and the result is an atonal, bipolar mess of a movie that limps from scene to scene with no clear purpose. Its sole saving grace is an impressive, downright heartbreaking performance by Ray Romano, whose budding friendship with Bentley is the movie’s most interesting (albeit least developed) component.
Rating: ★★ (out of 5)