'The Last Thing He Wanted' (2020) Review: The Long Letdown.
As the cinemas continue to be closed and new movie releases remain retired, streaming platforms have had to fill the gap. This week, I caught up with one of the newer Netflix only releases that had everything going for it in terms of cinematic value. A star studded cast, in a political thriller based on a Joan Didion novel, and directed by Dee Rees, the mastermind behind the 2017 hit ‘Mudbound’. Yes you can’t go to the movies, but you can bring the movies to you!
At least it seemed that way. Yet watching ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’ may be the last thing you’d want to do as you spend your time at home. As political as this political thriller may be, it’s not the most thrilling film in the world. Most of the film’s 2 hour runtime left me in a disoriented fog as I tried to make sense of the movie’s plot.
You follow Anne Hathaway as Elena McMahon, a left wing reporter stuck covering the 1984 Raegan campaign, who has the drive for stories with more weight. When her father becomes too ill to complete a shady assignment to Central America, she fills in his shoes and ends up caught in the midst of the very story she’s dying to tell. Danger at every turn, she journeys on to uncover the details of the plot, despite having multiple opportunities to forget what she’s seen and head home.
On paper, ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’ sounds like the classic tale of a journalistic ambition being the path to glory or a tragic downfall. Hathaway plays this well, especially in scenes where she’s conflicted about her role as a mother, and a role as a journalist. Yet as good as she is, the movie remains near impossible to follow up until the very last moments, and even then, it’s less than clear. The film feels scattered and thinks the more complex it gets the more interesting it will be. It hinges on the character’s investment in the plot, but manages to lose the audience by the time it all unfolds.
While you might not be able to follow the names and places, you’ll start to notice the film operates on a certain pattern. Elena gets into trouble, narrowly escaping with her life, finds her way to a public phone, calls her colleague back home, who gives Elena and the audience some context for what just happened, and Elena runs off to another location to get into more trouble. Once you’ve cracked the film’s code it’s too late.
At its core, ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’ is a movie about a person deciding the story she was following was too dull, and that she deserved to be following a better one. Viewers might find themselves relating to the main character all to well.
Rating: Catch It On Cable.