29 August 2018



A gently heartbreaking reflection on bad decisions, lost love and late-life revelations’
Film Journal International

Strong performances…
A sweet, solid film’

Film Threat

I'm picking up some old asshole for my brother.'

'Gradation, dynamism and nuance... sounds like a law firm!'

'What a shit-hole.......... I guarantee you Clint (Eastwood) didn't stay in this shit-hole.'

'It must be really liberating to be able to live your life not giving a shit about anyone else.'

'Are you always this much of an asshole or is it just to lowly paeans like us?'

This is the kind of film that would normally have me in floods of tears, and you too, if I'm not much mistaken, lol. An ancient movie star from the Golden- well, maybe Silver- Age of Hollywood who hasn't yet come to terms with the fact that he's old, like, really really old, revisits his past. It helps him, miraculously, to come to terms with everything he'd been fighting and railing against.

In addition, a troubled young girl's life is turned around overnight in tandem with the movie star's. Suddenly she completely doesn't mind that her bastard of a boyfriend has been cheating on her with some skank who puts the incriminating pictures of her nudie self up on Instagram straight after all the sex. I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it now. I know women, I am a woman, and this would never happen. No woman would be okay with this after just one chat with an old man, I don't care how bloody inspiring he is.

Like I said, I'd normally be sobbing my eyes out at stuff like this but everything in this film feels a bit too contrived for my liking. Let's start at the beginning, a very good place to start, as I believe a slightly famous someone once said.

Burt Reynolds plays Vic Edwards, the titular ageing movie star and 'Box-office King of 1975.' Burt's eighty-two in real life and now looks terribly frail. Vic made his name in Westerns and action movies after being a stuntman for a bit and we're shown several clips of Burt's actual old movies as if they're Vic's, films like SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and the excellent DELIVERANCE, in which Burt plays an action man who gets way more action than he can ultimately handle on an ill-fated boys' weekend away.

The rather cynical film-makers make sure we know that this film is a tear-jerker by starting the movie at the vets' office, where Vic is having to put his old faithful dog Squanto to sleep. Okay, that bit's sad. 'We'll give you a minute to say goodbye.'

Then, just to emphasise the point that Vic is old but still has trouble remembering it, we see him being completely blanked at the supermarket by a stunning young hottie and then being sad over it.

The rest of his time he spends at the mall- such an old people place!- eyeing up the younger women in the yoga class and discussing the obituaries with his equally old pal Sonny, who's played by a still recognisable living legend, Chevy Chase from the NATIONAL LAMPOON movies.

Then one day, something out of the ordinary does happen. Vic gets an invitation to a film festival in Nashville, the country music capital of the world, where a retrospective of his work is being held. He's also being given a Lifetime Achievement Award. So far so good, huh?

He flies to Nashville expecting the festival to be like Cannes. It isn't. It's being held in the back room of a downbeat bar. Vic's rude and obnoxious, not to mention ungrateful, to the organisers of the festival, a young lad and his mates who've saved their dollars and cents all year to put on this little festival.

They're huge fans of Vic's films and he throws their love and loyalty back in their faces. He says the one thing that's pretty much guaranteed to hurt film fans badly. He calls them 'just a bunch-a losers watching movies in the basement,' a sort of preconceived notion about us film nerds that's only sometimes true. And so what if we watch movies in the basement? Ya gotta watch 'em somewhere. What does it matter where and how dare Vic be so rude?

Vic, who has also proven himself by now to be a sexist pig ('No, I banged her brains out, but the rumours that we were dating were just bullshit') storms out of the festival in a huff. We know that, for the film to end well, he'll have to realise the error of his ways and come back and grovel big-time to the film fans who've been gracious enough to invite him to Nashville and put him up in a motel which, by the way, he bitches about 'cause it's not the Ritz.

I think the main problem with the film is Burt's twenty-year-old co-star, Ariel Winter, who plays the smart younger sister Alex in American sitcom MODERN FAMILY. Here she plays the sister of Doug, the young festival organiser who, incidentally, looks like a young Jack Black. Doug tells his unwilling sister, Lil, that she's got to be Vic's chauffeur and personal assistant for the duration of the festival. She reluctantly agrees.

You can just see the film-makers sitting down saying, now, what's the funniest way to present this Lil as the exact opposite of what Vic would expect in a chauffeur-cum-PA at a 'prestigious' film festival?

I know, let's have her turn up at the airport in an old banger of a car wearing hardly any clothes, screeching 'you fucking asshole' repeatedly into her phone at some bloke who's jerking her around! This is gonna be sweet. And so the character of the dreadful, foul-mouthed, tattooed and pierced Lil, with her goddamn ass-cheeks literally hanging out of her tight denim cut-offs like she's touting for some kinda business, is born.

I'm not kidding you, it's probably the worst case of screechy over-acting I've ever seen. And of course Vic is an old fogey, the film-makers are thinking, so let's have Lil and the rest of the festival peeps bombard him with as many social media terms as can fit through the eye of a needle! What a marvellous idea. His old-person bewilderment will neatly highlight the difference between the two generations and it'll be really funny and clever.

Except it's not. It just feels horribly contrived, like we're being manipulated into feeling certain emotions but the manipulation's not powerful enough to make us feel 'em sincerely. There's an episode of THE SIMPSONS about an old Western movie star called Buck McCoy (voiced by Dennis DUEL Weaver), which makes me cry buckets every time I see it. Sure, it's a cartoon, but the humour, the pathos, the aching nostalgia and the love of movies are all there, present and correct. I don't think THE LAST MOVIE STAR ever quite reaches these heights. 

They give Lil the illness of depression as well, which the doctors are trying to cure with a cocktail of different modern medicines, and it feels like the sole purpose of all this is to make Vic think, hell, kids sure didn't need all these different drugs and have all these fancy-pants illnesses back in MY day...! I surely am flabbergasted by the litany of names of medicines this crazy bitch young'un is shooting at me rapid-fire. I'd better go have me a nice lie-down.

One funny thing about Vic's schmaltzy trip down Memory Lane is when he takes the confused old lady with Alzheimers' out of the nursing home and shows her the river where he once proposed to her. He kisses her and I'm thinking, what if they have sex and afterwards she says, well, thanks for the ride, sonny, but who the fuck ARE ya again...?' It's all a bit mad.

It's pretty obvious that the purpose of the film is to teach Vic a lesson. This lesson: 'I thought I was too good for this little film festival, but as it turns out, it's too good for me.' They show clips of Vic (Burt old) taking to his characters in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and DELIVERANCE (Burt young) and sighing heavily and saying things like, where did the gosh-darned time go...?

Well, that's the question we're all asking, lol. I should have been in floods of tears by now but I wasn't. Thinking there might be something badly wrong with my emotional reactors, I waited for the credits to roll and then I went straight onto YouTube and watched Johnny Cash singing HURT. The tears flowed like Niagara Falls. Now that's how you make people feel for an older person looking back on their lives. That's how you do it.

Burt Reynolds is 'The Last Movie Star,' on-demand and on digital download on 20 August 2018 courtesy of SECOND SIGHT FILMS!!!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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