Joan Didion’s 1996 political thriller novel, The Last Thing He Wanted, has been adapted to a feature film and comprises of an all-star line-up with Anne Hathaway and Rosie Perez in lead roles, joined by Willem Dafoe and Ben Affleck. The plot is centred on a principled and persistent journalist, Elena McMahon, played by Hathaway, who starts the film in El Salvador being chased by a band of Nicaraguan rebels.
McMahon and her fellow colleague, played by Rosie Perez, barely escape the chase alive before returning to Washington. However, while McMahon is keen on following the story through in hopes of exposing American involvement in Central America, the paper decides to put her on the campaign trail to cover Ronald Reagan’s re-election bid.
McMahon uses this opportunity to dig deeper into her story while covering the election and later on bumps into her dad who puts her in a compromising position due to his shady line of work. While McMahon hesitates to get involved, she soon finds out it’s the only way she can get the answers she has been looking for.
While the film boasts a stellar cast, with each giving a strong performance –especially Hathaway – the film is hampered by a weak plot and writing that is riddled with confusion throughout. This leaves the audience trying to figure out what direction the film is going in and losing sight of the plot.
There are many puzzling moments throughout that make the audience wonder if McMahon is actually aware of the danger she’s putting herself in. The screenwriters’ apparent attempt to keep us guessing with a number of plot twists results in perhaps having to watch the film a second time to fully understand the movie.
The movie’s complexities also hinder the audience’s attention throughout the film as many of the hidden answers are not revealed until the film’s strongest scene, its final wrap-up. As a result, the movie opened to mixed reviews and may come off as an overly ambitious piece of work. However, for those who enjoy good journalism- themed movies with a dizzying number of plot twists, this will keep you entertained.
The Last Thing He Wanted is now available on Netflix.