Film Review: Last Will and Embezzlement

This would-be serious exposé of elder abuse is so mishandled it merely becomes an endless, clumsy and finally patronizing litany of woe, offering no real insights or solutions.

There’s no doubting the importance of the subject of Last Will and Embezzlement, which tackles the horrendously far-flung financial exploitation of the elderly, who lose their life savings to venal relatives, “friends” and financial advisors, as well as mortgage scams and the like. Such horror stories are distressingly prevalent, especially in this country, and with them go attendant tensions like the problem of senior-citizen care and the resultant pressures and guilt faced by the families involved.

Sadly—indeed, nearly as sad as the plights depicted here—Deborah Louise Robinson’s documentary is an amateurish, excruciatingly mishandled affair completely not up to its devastating theme. With no clue on the director’s or writers’ parts of how to temper and properly present this material, it merely becomes an unending kvetch-fest, as awful account follows awful account. The audience grows weary, despite how terrible they may feel about the victims.

The movie is also blighted by obvious narration delivered by Artie Pasquale, which seems more fit, both in its writing and funereally lit technical execution, for a TV infomercial for barbecue equipment. Pasquale intones, “Wherever there are humans and money, people who are weak and others who are strong, there will always be snakes and vultures and other creatures of prey laying in wait for their first opportunity to exhibit the worst humanity has to offer.” All you want to do is change the channel.

Robinson has a star “get” here in the form of Mickey Rooney, whom she keeps returning to as he recounts his personal tale of woe in an overwrought manner the actor might have envisioned as his last, “greatest” performance. Robinson trains in relentlessly on this hysterically blubbering man, who for years has been (to put it mildly) quite beyond any directorial control. Like all her footage of helpless elders, it merely smacks of exploitation and seems nearly as hideous as any financial mistreatment.