The Last Thing He Wanted, Dee Rees’ version of Joan Didion’s 1996 novel, is this ambitious piece of work that it’s difficult to know where to begin using Anne Hathaway stars as Elena McMahon, a dogged reporter. The latter, since the movie opens, is dodging bullets in 1982 El Salvador. She and a colleague (played by Rosie Perez) barely escape with their lives.
But once she in Washington, Elena wants nothing more than to return to Central America and adhere to a story she started to ferret out, tracing the United States’ involvement with rebel bands that are Nicaraguan.
To her dismay, her editor sends her to the campaign trail to cover Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election bidding; she flaws from the drab, regular mission when her somewhat addled dad, Richard (Willem Dafoe), a wheeler-dealer in a shady field of work, falls sick and asks for her help in making one last deal which will set him up comfortably for the remainder of his life.
Elena has no clue what she is getting into, though it slowly becomes clear that Richard’s”bargain” dovetails with a significant story she’s been expecting to pursue. A slick, mysterious authorities man in a suit (Ben Affleck) slips into the narrative. Is he a friend or foe? Elena is pulled deeper and further into an evaluation that becomes much more dangerous since the moment’s tick by.
If you find yourself radically dropped in the middle of The Last Thing, He Wanted, that’s currently streaming on Netflix, that is probably by design: Rees, who co-wrote the screenplay with Marco Villalobos, desires to keep us guessing, and there are moments once we can’t be conscious of what we’re seeing or are left wondering why Elena seems strangely oblivious about the danger she is in.
Many of the details you are going to have questions about will probably be answered in the movie’s last few minutes, in a breathless wrap-up. But The Last Thing He Wanted appears to be so taken with its intricacy it manages to trip up itself. Rees–whose last feature was the superb 2017 play Mudbound–has ideas galore, and she’s not afraid to challenge her audience. However, though the complexity of The Last Thing He Wanted is deliberate, you may find yourself yearning for more clarity, just some small, solid threads to cling to as you wend through the labyrinthine plot.
Hathaway is excellent at enjoying stressed-out and obsessive. There’s something quivery and worried about Elena like she is torn between living in the actual world and a different enchanting one, a dreamworld of journalistic and ambition righteousness. Yet you keep wondering:
What is she after, and why? Over and over again in this narrative, she escapes that which ought to be certain death. If her fortune is going to run out, you start to wonder. And by the time you know if it does or not, it’s too late. The Last Thing He Wanted creates Some sense in the end. But getting through its large, unwieldy center is an undertaking–and not a political thriller similar to this one should feel so much like a mission.