‘The Last Thing He Wanted‘ is a political thriller directed by Dee Rees based on a Joan Didion novel. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released through Netflix. Since I have not read the fictitious book, I will just focus my review on the film.
Journalist Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway) recently lost her mother and tries to reconnect with her daughter Cat (Onata Aprile) who lives at a boarding school. She is covering the growing violence in South America. After her desk is “frozen,” she and fellow journalist Alma Guerrero (Rosie Perez) are reassigned, with Elena getting Reagan’s reelection in 1984. She finds out her father Richard McMahon (Willem Dafoe) is dying and he asks her to handle one last deal for him. Quitting her job, she agrees, but soon gets in over her head when she realizes her father is selling arms to political factions in South America. This puts her on the radar of CIA operative Treat Morrison (Ben Affleck), who is sent to investigate her, but soon they end up in a relationship as Elena tries to stay in hiding.
The acting in this film is very well done. Hathaway, Affleck, Perez, and especially Dafoe all turn in an excellent performance and that does not go unnoticed. Hathaway does a great job as the leading lady struggling with the decisions she has made, placing the burden on her shoulders in order to get out of the situation.
As with the problem of most political thrillers, the filmmakers do not know what to cut. There are longwinded scenes of the characters driving, shopping, staring off into the distance, or other menial tasks that add absolutely nothing to the plot. I believe they did this to extend the movie’s running time, but they overdid it. It feels like there is so much to the background scenes that important plot points are completely brushed over or given a courtesy nod at a later point in the movie. I felt like it was somehow incomplete and overdone at the same time.
Also, there were way too many characters to keep track of and some just sort of vanish. It seemed like the filmmakers did not know what to do with them either, so they hoped you would not notice their absence or they killed them off. This is probably due to the movie being an adaption of a novel, which often has more characters and plot points than the film. Good filmmakers know what to cut and what to adapt without destroying the concept or narrative, but in this case, the filmmakers seemed confused about what was necessary or unnecessary to keep. Since I have not read the novel I cannot say for sure if this is the case, but I highly suspect it.
Bottom line, while the cast pulls excellent performance, the movie has too many blocks of nothing, underused characters, and is overly long, making it somewhat of a disappointment.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Drug use, Violence, Strong foul language, Nudity
FAVORITE QUOTE: Some real things have happened lately.
Check out the trailer below:
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