“In a perfect world we make perfect choices. In the real world we make real choices.”
If you find yourself asking, “what did I just watch,” and proceed to shut off your television after watching The Last Thing He Wanted, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The Last Thing He Wanted tells the tale of Elena (Anne Hathaway) as she dives deep into the world of arms dealing. It’s a sketchy world, to say the least, but Elena believes she can do good and investigate the corrupt officials of this world. The film is a tough pill to swallow, and I hope you have your airsick bags handy, because The Last Thing He Wanted is nothing but a rollercoaster of constant loops, and twists, that will only cause a headache.
Elena McMahon is our central character, a journalist for the Washington Post. Upon hearing of her father’s medical condition (the father who had apparently abandoned her when she was young), Elena decides to quit her job to care for him. But it isn’t very long until her father asks her to do a huge favor for him. He sends her on an assignment to fill in for him as an arms dealer for the U.S. government in Central America. A big assignment that will yield great reward. Elena soon becomes entangled in the world of arms dealing with both her situation in Costa Rica, and the dark secrets of the U.S. government. When it comes to the performances, Hathaway is not all bad. She accurately portrays herself as being a strong-willed woman in a “man’s world.” Hathaway’s acting choices of late have been a little questionable, with 2019s Serenity and The Hustle, The Last Thing He Wanted does nothing to bring her out of this slump. In fact, it only digs her deeper into that hole. Although Hathaway was not atrocious, per se, she seemingly missed any ounce of exquisite acting we know she possess. Willem Dafoe, who plays Elena’s father, Dick McMahon, comes close to being a worthless character. Yes, he is the one that sends Elena into this world, but his character arch is not an arch at all. More importantly, he flees the film almost as soon as he’s introduced. We can’t get a grasp of Dafoe’s talents. To which I say, go watch The Lighthouse instead.
Elena’s story only brings us to the next batch of surrounding characters. First up, is Treat Morrison (Ben Affleck) who’s an inside guy in the crooked politics of Washington D.C., but one that seems to have a part to play in the 1984 U.S. election, which would see Ronald Reagan take over as Commander and Chief. Affleck, another notable actor, is never fully able to dive into his character. Morrison is not suave or debonair. He just comes off as sleazy. There’s nothing remotely interesting about him as he is wedged, or should I say forced, between the scenes hoping to capitalize on an “intriguing” character, although he never comes off as such. Rosie Perez, who plays Elena’s confidant and fellow journalist, Alma Guerrero, is hit and miss, to say the least. I would say that her appearances are interesting, but she’s only in scenes that provide a tether to the real world Elena’s left behind. It’s too hard to compare her to the others as she only has a few lines every 30 minutes.
I’m surprised by The Last Thing He Wanted. Director, Dee Rees, most known for her excellent Mudbound, sits behind the camera once again. The Last Thing He Wanted teams Rees along with Hollywood heavyweights, but it severely lacks in its storytelling. I haven’t had the opportunity to read the book. In fact, I only heard of the book right after watching the film. But familiar with the book or not, any viewer can tell the places where the film cut out crucial scenes. At least that’s my conclusion after watching a film so filled with twist after twist, dismal characters, and vast amounts of confusion. It’s not even just the writing, but the editing is bordering on terrible. There’s a part where Elena finally takes the guns to their destination. In talking to the man receiving the guns, there’s a lapse where the dialogue, and what’s happening onscreen, does not match. It’s so noticeable, that at first, I thought the movie skipped. But as I re-watched the scene, I saw the mistake, clear as day.
I may have spoken too much on the plot of The Last Thing He Wanted, but call it: “I had to verbalize the plot in order to better understand it.” A wannabe political thriller with a compelling story, that just can’t properly fit all the pieces together. The Last Thing He Wanted, to put it simply, is just a mess. I believe Rees still has a fire in her, and I can’t wait for her next work. But sadly, The Last Thing He Wanted is the last thing I wanted see.
The Last Thing He Wanted
Directed by: Dee Rees
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe, Rosie Perez, and Ben Affleck