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Review: Rebecca Schull, bold ideas and lots of words in identity drama ‘The Last’

Rebecca Schull in a scene from “The Last.” Credit: Plainview Pictures
Rebecca Schull in a scene from “The Last.”
(Plainview Pictures)

What if you discovered that you don’t really belong to the religion you so deeply observe and embrace? That’s the shock for the young couple at the center of “The Last,” a bold movie of ideas and words — lots and lots of words.

Although the script by director Jeff Lipsky lends itself more to a stage or even a book adaptation, much in this complex, cross-generational drama is provocative, profound and worth considering.

Newlyweds Josh (A.J. Cedeño), a modern Orthodox Jew, and Olivia (a luminous Jill Durso), his Jewish-convert wife, are gobsmacked when Josh’s 92-year-old, dying great-grandma, Claire (Rebecca Schull), reveals that not only is she not actually Jewish, as she’s pretended all their lives, but that she worked as a Nazi nurse during World War II.

These are just a few of the secrets the unapologetic Claire will disclose throughout this overlong, if strangely absorbing talkathon, which makes her once-adoring family members, including her granddaughter (Julie Fain Lawrence) and grandson-in-law (Reed Birney) — Josh’s parents — react in some extreme and not always credible ways.

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Veteran performer Schull, perhaps best known as Fay on TV’s “Wings,” gives a towering, fearless turn; the other main actors are fine as well. Still, one must yield to the film’s flat shooting style, lengthy monologues, dangling questions and awkwardly rendered, dubiously earned ending.

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‘The Last’

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

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Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Royal, West L.A.; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Edwards Westpark 8, Irvine

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