Veteran Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine is one of those rare breed of actors that we would happily wait in line just to hear her read the Telephone Directory out loud, in fact there are parts in this rather tepid contrived comedy that we wished she had being doing just that. It wasn’t the fact that this new movie directed by Mark Pellington from a script from newcomer Stuart Ross Fink was totally without its merits, but is more that that Ms Maclaine at this late stage in her career, deserves to spend her considerable talent on something more substantial that this lite Lifetime TV fare.
She plays Harriet Lauler another of those outspoken old curmudgeons that most people very quickly run away from that she has started to be typecast in now. Harriet is a compulsive obsessive who is a total control freak which means that she has very empty daily routine down to a pat that she is both bored out of her mind in her big empty house, and she is as lonely as hell. One day glancing at some obituaries in the local newspaper, Harriet realizes that most people have glowing tributes paid to them by friends and family, even when they do not deserve them. Realizing that she is so now so ostracized by everyone who was once part of her life including from her immensely successful business career which has made her very wealthy, she decides to take matters into her own hands.
As she once practically kept the local newspaper solvent with all her advertising, the meek Editor allows Harriet to bully him into let her enlist his obituary writer Anne (Amanda Seyfried) to write the glowing tribute that she wants published on her death. A reluctant Anne undertakes the project but as she works her way through the copious list of contacts that Harriet had thrust upon her, she finds that every single person on the list totally loathes Harriet. Plucking up the courage to share this news with Harriet, gets Anne immediately thrown out of the house, but a few days later the determined and controlling Harriet is back with a plan for Anne to help her start leading the sort of life that may get people to sing her praises.
Naturally it turns out that Anne doesn’t need to manufacture any of this at all, as she/we discover that under this gruff exterior there is actually a very nice person who everyone will start to recognize and love when she practically adopts a potty mouthed disadvantaged African/American kid, as well as getting Anne her first boyfriend for years, and making nice again with the ex husband she divorced 22 years ago.
MacLaine shines above it all in this movie that lays on the cuteness factor to ensure that it has all the possibility it can of being a crowd pleaser. Sadly however she is left doing all the work here herself as Seyfried is sadly miscast and there is no real chemistry between her Ann and Harriet, which is another pity.