Dee Rees’ ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’ raises questions

As part of our Sister Series, FF2 Media’s Katusha Jin and Sophia Jin discuss Dee Rees’ recent film, The Last Thing He Wanted. The film stars Academy Award-winning actor Anne Hathaway, and is directed by the filmmaker behind Mudbound, Dee Rees. Be sure to check out our reviews by clicking on the names of the movies!

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When Katusha and Sophia first heard that this movie is available on Netflix, they were super excited. Finally another movie starring Anne Hathaway—yay! They’ve been watching her works since The Princess Diaries from 2001. Read their discussion below about what surprised them about Dee Rees’ film: The Last Thing He Wanted

Initial thoughts:

KIZJ: So what are your first thoughts after watching that?

SYJ: Well, it feels like there’s a lot of potential in the story, but it didn’t quite meet up to that. I think the acting and the cinematography were good.

KIZJ: Why do you think parts of the story didn’t work for you?

SYJ: The storyline wasn’t clear to me. I found many parts of it quite odd. For example, how Anne Hathaway’s character, “Elena McMahon”, had difficulties trusting many people, but then suddenly was okay with trusting a character I found rather suspicious. The way this trust grew between them was not developed in the movie and the connection appeared out of nowhere.

KIZJ: I found that quite odd too. I remember asking you whether I had missed something and we were both rather confused.

SYJ: I know that Dee Rees writes and directs films that highlight various aspects of struggle. For example in her movie Pariah she talks about a lesbian who is trying to accept her sexual identity, but isn’t sure about how it would affect the people around her. Mudbound includes family and mental struggles due to PTSD. The Last Thing He Wanted is about the struggles of a journalist who has lost a lot. She’s lost her mother, and her father was estranged from her at a young age.

KIZJ: And her relationship with her daughter isn’t great either. She went through breast cancer and a divorce and now her daughter is at a boarding school because of all the traveling she has to for her job. In a short summary, she explains how she’s been through so much, ever since her father left her 20 years ago.

SYJ: She had her desk frozen and her editor moved her onto the campaign trail, which she did not want to do. She had already done so much investigating in Central America.

KIZJ: The movie began in El Salvador where she was performing investigations. Switching her over to a campaign trail was a professional blow to her. Even during the campaign reporting, you can see her following suspicious stories and fighting to write the stories she cares about when she’s calling her editor from the messy office floor. Dee Rees mentioned in other interviews that her works focused a lot on the topic of identity. What did you think of Elena McMahon’s identity and how viewers might be affected by it?

SYJ: She is a strong-willed person who has gone through a lot in her life. It sometimes feels as though she got herself into things without knowing what the situation was.

Issues with the plot:

KIZJ: So do you think this is a trait that the viewers may relate to, or do you think this was an issue with the character creation?

SYJ: I don’t know if this is an issue necessarily with the creation of the character, and I don’t think it’s something outwardly relatable to many people. It does seem a little strange as to why she just dives into something, despite the monetary reward. She has to fly out to a completely unknown place, which I think is a rash decision on the character’s part. 

KIZJ: From my perspective, there is a problem with creating a character that people feel like their actions don’t make sense, since there is a limit to how many nonsensical decisions they can make before the viewer will feel disinterested.

SYJ: Well, I think that was the main nonsensical action.

KIZJ: Hm, her father begged her to fly out: he put in everything he had, all his money, and was on the verge of becoming destitute. 

SYJ: I see, so she went back for two reasons: to get back her father’s money, and to research what is going on—it piqued her interest.

KIZJ: Right! So that decision was not totally illogical, albeit not thought through. 

SYJ: Which is also surprising to me, since at the beginning, the movie shows how she has been to places in Central America where there are problems with illegal activity. She knows how dangerous it can be, a.k.a. she is experienced in traveling in dangerous places, yet she goes into this deal with minimal preparation. She had no back up plan. 

KIZJ: That’s true, she clearly is an experienced journalist, and of some repute in this field, who is not a novice in these circumstances. So do you think it is a problem with her character creation?

SYJ: It’s a problem with the plot—the writing. It’s a pretty big mistake. 

KIZJ: Another problem with the plot is that she sort of blindly trusts the wrong people. 

SYJ: Also, there are several characters that aren’t developed, so that creates a lot of plot holes too. I definitely would’ve liked to have seen more background and history on Anne Hathaway’s character rather than just her in the present. 

KIZJ: Yeah, there were a lot in the film that confused me too, and I would’ve liked to see more of her past and personal life as well. But, despite these problems, I really enjoyed the acting of this star-studded film.

SYJ: Right! We don’t get to know her closely, so we as the viewer don’t know if her decisions are in character or out of character. I think the acting was really good. I have no qualms about the acting, I have no questions about the acting, and the actors were well-suited. I also really liked the cinematography. The shots made sense, it showed what the story wanted to show. The main problem is the story itself—there are just some discrepancies and carelessness.

KIZJ: How do you think you’d feel if you read the story as a book?

SYJ: I feel like there would be more details that would’ve tied various things together. I think because a book doesn’t have a time limit, it would be able to delve into the details and explain maybe how she felt and what her thought process was, which the film didn’t do. But if the book had a lot of plot holes, I’d dismiss it. 

What attracted us to the film:

KIZJ: I was really excited about this movie because it’s about the struggles of a journalist—something that I’ve been looking into a lot. What do you think about this type of story? Do you think it is interesting to the general audience?

SYJ: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I said that it had a lot of potential, but there are just too many plot holes. If the plot holes were ironed out, then I think it would be very interesting to see the life of a reporter—what kind of situations she gets into and how she resolves them.

KIZJ: What about the contradiction that she faces as a journalist—trying to reveal what is going on, but ending up being involved herself?

SYJ: That would’ve been interesting to see, had the plot not had so many problems. I couldn’t understand what her thought process was.

KIZJ: Interestingly enough, though, we do see a narration going on, and that’s one of the things that attracted Dee Rees to this movie—the omniscient voiceover narration.

SYJ: I think it’s such a shame just because it could have done better.

KIZJ: I agree. We were attracted to it because it has such a strong cast and were curious to see how everything would tie together.

SYJ: Totally. It just feels like the movie rides on the name and fame of the people involved.

©Katusha Jin and Sophia Jin

Photo Credits: Netflix

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