The Last Thing He Wanted
- Matthew Turner
- 17 February 2020
A deglamorised Anne Hathaway and a stiff Ben Affleck star in Dee Rees's incomprehensible 'thriller'
Director Dee Rees's follow-up to the powerful, Oscar-nominated Mudbound is an 80s-set adaptation of the Joan Didion novel, starring Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck. Unfortunately, the film – a Netflix Original – is a major disappointment, a woefully incoherent thriller, entirely devoid of thrills.
Hathaway plays Elena McMahon, a hard-bitten journalist who's furious when her boss yanks her out of Nicaragua (where she'd been getting close to the US-funding-the-Contras scandal) and forces her to cover the 1984 Presidential election campaign instead. However, when she discovers that her seriously ill father Richard (Willem Dafoe) has gun-running connections, she somewhat implausibly agrees to execute his 'one last job', ending up right in the middle of the story she was reporting on in the first place.
That ludicrous plot turn is just one of the script's numerous problems. The narrative is nigh-on impossible to follow and mostly consists of Elena ricocheting between locations for no adequately explained reason. Why she ends up tending the house of Toby Jones's louche expat, for example, is anybody's guess. The dialogue, too, ranges from flat to borderline incomprehensible, not least in Hathaway's excruciating, overly-stylised voiceover contributions (if they're meant to be examples of her amazing journalism, they backfire spectacularly).
In fairness, Hathaway really throws herself into the role (her more muted, deglamorised style is the film's most interesting element), but her efforts are largely wasted because none of the story threads connect on either a dramatic or emotional level. And the supporting performances are curiously lacklustre or unengaging, none more so than Affleck, whose turn as a shady government official / deeply unconvincing love interest might be his most wooden to date (and that's really saying something).
As if that all wasn't damning enough, it's working toward a finale that is just flat-out laughable. Lacking a single moment that rings true, forget the last thing he wanted, this is the last thing anybody wanted.
Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 21 Feb.