Netflix original film The Last Thing He Wanted has proven to be a critical failure.
Although the film has the combined star power of Ben Affleck, Anne Hathaway and Willem Defoe, along with director Dee Rees, the film holds a dismal score of 7% on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.
The Last Thing He Wanted is based on a novel by Joan Didion, who’s also penned novels like Play As It Lays and bestselling memoir The Year of Magical Thinking.
In the film, Hathaway plays a journalist named Elena McMahon, who is tasked with covering the 1984 presidential election.
She gets caught up in her dying father’s business moving weapons from Central America to Florida, amidst starting a steamy love affair with a U.S politician who is manipulating situations overseas.
The film focuses on America’s role in Nicaragua, which eventually led to the Iran-Contra Scandal.
Defoe stars as Elena’s father, while Affleck appears as her love interest Treat Morrison.
While the novel was well-received on its publication, with book critics praising Didion’s trademark writing style, the film hasn’t enjoyed the same response from critics.
Famed Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers wrote, “Incoherence courses through this Netflix Original,” adding, “In the novel, Didion mercilessly exposed the hollow core of American democracy. On film, The Last Thing He Wanted settles for just being hollow.”
He continued, “How does a director as stellar as Dee Rees go so thunderously wrong adapting a 1996 novel by the great Joan Didion, with a cast headed by Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, and Willem Dafoe? Here’s Exhibit A and the last thing any of us wanted.”
Other critics commented that the film was difficult to follow, with RogerEbert.com’s Nick Allen stating that the film was “incomprehensible to an almost impressive degree.”
This was a sentiment echoed by the AV Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.
He wrote that the film “looks less like controlled discombobulation and more like messy, disorganized prestige TV, directed without a plan … Rees’ indifference to consistencies of perspective and matters of visual pacing is more or less disastrous.”
However, some critics were more impressed. Gary Goldstein of The Los Angeles Times called the film “a tense, absorbing tale of an innocent woman upended by the worst kind of political duplicity.”
The project was announced back in 2017, with Rees picking up the script penned by Marco Villalobos. The film was produced by Cassian Elwes of Elevated Films.
The cast is rounded out by Toby Jones, Rosie Perez, Edi Gathegi, Mel Rodriguez and Carlos Leal.
Hathaway spoke to Variety about how excited she was to be in a Dees Rees film.
“I woke up in the middle of the night one night and turned on the TV, couldn’t get back to sleep, and Pariah was on. I saw it at 3 o’clock in the morning and it hit me like a gut punch,” she said, of Rees’s previous films.
“And then I saw Mudbound, and that was a heart punch. And now I feel like our movie’s a head punch. So I feel like Dee Rees is moving through my chakras.”
The Last Thing He Wanted is now streaming on Netflix.