The Last Thing He Wanted

Anne Hathaway in 'The Last Thing He Wanted.' (Netflix)
Anne Hathaway in 'The Last Thing He Wanted.' (Netflix)


A disillusioned reporter does one final mission for her dying gun-runner father; amission that lands her right in the middle of a conflict between the Sandanistas and the CIA. 


Have you ever tried watching a very dialogue-heavy foreign language movie with the subtitles turned off? That’s pretty much exactly what watching The Last Thing He Wanted – which is perhaps the single greatest proof that Netflix will release absolutely anything – is like. It’s not so much that it’s simply a bad movie; it’s that it is utterly incomprehensible on any level beyond that vague plot synopsis above.

I’m not, by any means, someone who feels that films have to make logical sense for them to be great – I’m a big fan of David Lynch at his most abstract, for example, or Darren Aronofsky at his most mother! - but this earthy, brown-tinged (political?) thriller clearly isn’t trying to be Twin Peaks: The Return. Its aims lie in clearer, simpler goals. It is, I assume, interested in creating a character piece about Anne Hathaway’s almost gumshoe-like reporter and, presumably, saying something about the drug war in Puerto Rico. It’s just so badly told that it doesn’t come within a thousand miles of achieving either of these goals – or any other for that matter.

Directed and co-written by Dee Rees (with Marco Villalobos, based on the novel by Joan Didion), The Last Thing He Wanted is effectively the result of a bunch of talented people coming together to create something that isn’t so much less than the sum of its parts but something whose parts don’t seem to have even been on the same continent when it was put together.

Dee Rees earned serious acclaim for her other Netflix film, Mudbound, and Joan Didion is a counter-cultural icon (there are, buried somewhere in the background of all this film, pretty obvious comparisons to Hunter S Thompson), but somewhere along the way, things went very, very wrong indeed. Creators of this calibre don’t normally put out something this incoherent, this confused and this badly assembled.

The film starts with a lengthy, rambling voice-over by Anne Hathaway that sounds like its meant to be profound (or even just mood-setting ala Martin Sheen’s unhinged monologue at the beginning of Apocalypse Now) but is abject gibberish that, sadly, sets the tone for what is to come. It all looks very Serious and very Important, but it basically plays out like someone took a four-hour cut of the film (heavens, could you imagine?) and edited it down to two hours by discarding whole scenes completely at random.

The actual story is all but entirely impossible to follow, and the characterisation is no less perplexing. Scenes crash into one another with no apparent purpose or continuity and characters come and go from the screen with even less rhythm and rhyme. When Hathaway’s character confesses at one point later on in the film that she “has no idea why I’m here”, it’s hard not to sympathise. I had no earthly idea why the hell she was there either.

And, in spite of a typically fun (but still inexplicable) turn from Toby Jones in the latter parts of the film, it’s not even buoyed by its rather impressive cast. Hathaway, despite the guff she so often receives, is a great actress and she clearly throws herself into the role here. Unfortunately, even after listing off the major events of her life in what is one of the clumsiest bit of character-exposition I’ve ever seen committed to screen, her character is just too vaguely drawn for her performance to amount too much. As for Ben Affleck, he may forever be a far better director than he is an actor, but his work here isn’t so much phoned-in as it is telegrammed in. From Mars.

The result of all this is a film that is, by turns, confusing, frustrating and, more than anything, deathly boring. It has a moment here or there that kind of works, but even these get lost in the chaotic mess that surrounds them. I would say that there are few worse options on Netflix to put your mind off the current epidemic and lockdown but, on the other hand, somewhere between addling your brain and pulverising you into unconsciousness, it might actually be exactly what you need! How’s that for a recommendation?