In the effort to be as transparent possible, I'll admit it took me two tries to finish "The Last Thing He Wanted."
I'm an easy sell on a political thriller starring Anne Hathaway as a reporter doing one last job for her ailing, gun-running father. Sign me up for that film. But don't sign me up for this one.
We follow Hathaway's character, Elena McMahon, chasing stories and conducting illegal dealings through Latin America. McMahon's father, Dick McMahon, is a gun runner who's slowing losing his mind to dementia.
The cast rarely gels, feeling like a collection of actors each in their own separate movie.
Dick McMahon is played by a fidgety, short-fused Willem Dafoe. His mile-a-minute delivery contrasts with Ben Affleck, playing a D.C. elite that appears to have taken melatonin before every scene. Toby Jones spends his short time waving cigarettes at Hathaway and lounging. And Rosie Perez, who should be the film's second focus, hardly makes any dent in this convoluted story.
When Hathaway and Perez are mimicking Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the film feels fluid. When it focuses on anything else, it's brutal.
And as if the difficult-to-follow story wasn't a big enough obstacle to enjoying this film, it's also nauseating watch. Jarring, sharp edits that shift from one frame to the next are a constant. There are filmmakers (the French director François Truffaut comes to mind) that use this editing style to keep viewers on their toes. In this film, the editing feels like being jerked around.
"The Last Thing He Wanted" is the follow-up for director Dee Rees after the superb 2017 film "Mudbound." Adapting a Joan Didion novel, for which this film is based on, seemed like an ambitious task for Rees. Sadly, it seems her ambition has gotten the best of her.
It's clear Rees was going for the type of tone films like "All the President's Men" and "Three Days of the Condor" have. "The Last Thing He Wanted" didn't keep me on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. Instead, it made me want to do the dishes and buy myself some more time before finishing it.
This film badly needs more time to develop. Or better yet, see one of it's plot lines through to the end.
One final gripe I have about films that show journalism in action: if you have a reporter have sex with a source, I'm completely out on the film. Just like "Richard Jewell" or the television series "Sharp Objects," this film falls back on the tired trope. Portraying journalists in this light continues a stereotype that is harmful and unnecessary. So enough, please.
Matthew Lambert has written for RiverTown Multimedia for almost three years. Prior to joining the company, Lambert graduated from Winona State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication: Journalism and a minor in Film Studies. Lambert will try any film once, but if he had his choice a Martin Scorsese or Paul Thomas Anderson film would be his choice.