April 22, 2022

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The Last Thing He Wanted: Now, Here’s A Terrible Movie

The Last Thing He Wanted

When I wrote the review of “The Night Clerk”, I was reluctant to come out clearly and call it a bad movie. It was a confusing movie with weak premises and a plotline that demands a lot of tolerance from you. I concluded that the movie didn’t give itself a lot of redeeming points off its poor presentation and that perhaps the movie is as bad as they say it is. Then I watched “The Last Thing He Wanted” and “The Night Clerk”, for a long moment, seemed like “The Irishman” or “Marriage Story“. “The Last Thing He Wanted” is true to its name but only in the plural sense: this movie is the last thing we wanted.

The movie was made off the novel “The Last Thing He Wanted” by Joan Didion and directed by Dee Rees who also co-produced with Cassian Elwes and co-wrote the screenplay with Marco Villalobos, so it is totally a Dee Rees movie, she owns the mess. But the film is not totally a mess, at least, it didn’t start as a mess.

Set in the 1980s, the movie showed a lot of promises. But it never made off from its promising start. In the beginning, we see Elena played by Anne Hathaway as a journalist in war-torn El Salvador following guerilla fighters and covering her. She and her colleague Alma Guerrero played by Rosie Perez. She may have stepped on toes as government forces attack their news office. Elena and her partner are the main targets but they escaped too easily, brushed past the attackers through the front door and drove straight to the runway and boards a plane home.

Far-fetched and ridiculous even but acceptable, at least for the promises it makes but that was the last good thing about the movie. This scene stood the movie on the edge of something rich, thrilling, and rewarding. But it didn’t quite make it that high; it fell into a whirlwind of confusion, hits and misses, and anti-climax which is saying a lot – climax is a word that shouldn’t be used to qualify the movie (nor anti-climax).

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What is the story of “The Last Thing He Wanted”?

The right question is, what is “The Last Thing He Wanted” trying to do? I think Elena is bored by the boring work of covering the 1984 presidential election because someone doesn’t like her investigating arm dealings in Central America and asking tough questions back home in the states. It turns out that the arms story she is pursuing is personal; her father played by Willem Dafoe is an arms dealer, running mines, machine guns, bullets, and all sort of ammunition to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cuba, to rebels, drug dealers, shady government contractors, anyone who could pay.

The father happens to be sick, more crazy than sick, but sick anyway. He tells his daughter to take his place and make a last drop for him in Costa Rica. He actually blackmails him but she accepts because she is bored and wants to return to Central America where the action is. She goes there but they won’t pay her and she let her plane fly away without her. She wants her pay and also a story. Things become dangerous, she is saved by one of the goons played by Edi Gathegi in the business because (never mind – he just saves her). She reads on the paper that her father is dead and discovers that her daughter is in danger. She does everything to get out and back to America including sleeping with a CIA agent played by Ben Affleck (we will get back to him later).

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Standing Up, Falling Down movie

The next moment, we see Elena in a seaside resort doing menial jobs such as wiping chairs and filling beer mugs in exchange information as the owner of the resort and employer played by Toby Jones has underground dealings. Elena is snooping around, gathering information, and probably mailing them to Alma Guerrero. Then a shootout ensues and Toby Jones is shot dead. Ben Affleck shoots Elena and she falls into the ocean to become food for fishes.

At the end of the film, Ben Affleck is speaking to a congressional-looking committee where he brandishes a newspaper where our protagonist occupies a small section that reads: “Caught By Greed: Disgraced Journalist Engaged in Multi-Generational Caribbean Drug Scheme”. But that is not the end since Alma Guerrero is writing a news story that implicates the CIA in the arms and other shady deals in Central America.

This is what I make of the movie, putting the pieces together and bringing my creativity to fill places where the movie left giant holes. I may be wrong but I am not very far from the truth and I doubt anyone on earth understands this movie enough to prove my piecing things together is false. Not even the director and writer Dee Rees.

What is the role of Ben Affleck and how would you rate this movie?

One of the reasons I accepted to watch this movie was the prominent photo of Ben Affleck on its cover. It is a Netflix movie, I know, I know but it has Ben Affleck who was hot in “The Accountant” and who has had people clamoring for a sequel then it must be a good one. Ben Affleck is a talented actor but his talents where wasted in the movie where he has nothing serious thing to do besides appearing the breast of a porn girl terribly superimposed into the face of Anne Hathaway. Rotten Tomatoes ranked the movie at the bottom of all his 44 movies. This is dangerous, “The Last Thing He Wanted” shouldn’t have made the list at all. Even pulling the trigger and appearing before congress to put the final nail on the person of Elena do not help his character one bit. In fact, it adds a layer of enigma and frustration to his character.

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Ben Affleck is not the only actor let down by a terrible movie. Anne Hathaway is a superstar with multiple awards including an Oscar for her role as a whore dying of tuberculosis in cold Paris in the romantic drama “Les Misérables”. Anne also has an Emmy and a Golden Globe and millions of dollars to her name. But there are people who will say that this movie didn’t let Hathaway down, that this is the continuation of a declining status that started with her 2019 negatively reviewed movies “Serenity” and “The Hustle”. If “The Hustle” is badly-received, “The Last Thing He Wanted” is terrible, whatever you do, don’t go to Rotten Tomatoes and check the reviews.

How would you rate “The Last Thing He Wanted”? Whatever you decide to rate this movie – no matter how low – can only be a testament to your generosity.

Image source: Medium


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