Last Word, The (2008): Geoff Haley’s Feature Debut, Starring Wes Bentley and Winona Ryder

Sundance Film Fest 2008 (Dramatic Competition)–Geoff Haley’s feature debut as writer and director is an attempt to make a dark humorous romantic comedy set in contemporary Los Angels.
Like other writers, he perceives of L.A. as a city populated by lonely, aimless and drifting souls desperate to make meaningful interpersonal connections with others.
Wes Bentley (who was so good in “American Beauty”) plays Evan Merck, a writer who has found a bizarre and peculiar niche, making sort of a living by composing the suicide notes of other people. Evan’s reclusive world is shattered when, at a client’s funeral, he meets the beautiful, free-spirited, sharped-tongue Charlotte (Winona Ryder), the sister of one of his dead clients.
Unaware of his real day job, much less his connection to her brother’s suicide, Charlotte shows interest in Evan, which gradually changes into fascination and attraction to the young writer. In their first meetings, there is some tension and sparks fly between the couple. However, as his feelings for Charlotte spiral, Evan desperately tries to keep his career a secret. Deceptions snowball, rocking the delicately crafted and fragile balance of Evan’s life and, consequently, the lives of his hapless clients.
Sharply uneven, “The Last Word” is a movie of touching, quirky, and intelligent moments, which, nonetheless, at the end don’t add to something more meaningful and coherent beyond the offbeat and episodic.
In theory (and ambition but not execution), the black comedy promises to say something “deep” about dealing with loss, redemption, and our curious need to leave a legacy.
That said, the acting is decent, and there is good chemistry between the gifted Bentley and Ryder (why don’t they act more often?) As Evan’s client and friend Abel, Ray Romano gets the best lines and puts the dead back in deadpan.
Writer-director Geoff Haley first was in Sundance Film Fest with his impressive short film, “The Parlor.”
Director-screenwriter: Geoff Haley
Produced by David Hillary, Tim Peternel, Alexandra Milchan, Bonnie Timmermann.
Cinematography: Kees Vanoostrum
Editor: Fabienne Rawley
Music: John Swihart
Running time: 94 Minutes
Winona Ryder
Wes Bentley
Ray Romano