Tag Archives: Dee Rees

The Last Thing He Wanted

Do you like drama and intrigue and secret ops and exposing deeply classified cover-ups? Oh that’s too bad. This movie has none of that. The Last Thing He Wanted is the last thing anyone wants when they sit down to a movie. It’s sort of counting on you to turn it on and either take a two hour nap take a nap or walk out of the room for a snack and never come back.

Elena (Anne Hathaway) is a journalist who…covers foreign correspondence. She has a kid in boarding school since she’s never home and I have no idea what happened to the kid’s father other than he is indeed alive. Rosie Perez plays her friend/photographer. I think they get reassigned to cover the election at home, which pisses off Elena. She has a kooky father (Willem Dafoe) who is definitely into some shady business and possibly has dementia. He implores Elena to take care of a deal he’s sunk half a mil into but now cannot himself follow through. She does. Or she tries. And things get really shitty. Ben Affleck is around…pretty sure he’s CIA, possibly also into politics? Hard to say.

 

So this is a brand new Netflix Original that did two things very well: it confused me and it bored me. Granted, those aren’t generally things movies are trying to do, and maybe this one isn’t either, but that’s hard to believe given what a big fat mess it is.

IMDB seems to think it’s about a veteran D.C. journalist (that would be Hathaway) who loses the thread of her own narrative when a guilt-propelled errand for her father (Willem Dafoe) thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break. So it turns out I did have the gist. I just didn’t give a fuck. I’m horrified to see this has been adapted from a Joan Didion novel. I hope she doesn’t have a Netflix subscription.

This isn’t a swing and a miss because it was never going to be more than a bunt. I lost track of motivations first, then plot. Anne Hathaway is…dogged. Either survived breast cancer or had a horrific boob injury. Her signature look is a chest covering scarf. She’s mad at everybody. She’s suspicious of nearly everyone but not suspicious enough. It’s so hard to get a handle on this and yet it was so underwhelming I can’t even be bothered to look it up.

Despite the brand name cast and director Dee Rees’ other successes, The Last Thing He Wanted is a real dud. It’s too late for me, but save yourself.

 

 

Mudbound

Two soldiers, equally scarred by the war, return to their homes in the South, and to their families who await them. Their shared experience bonds them but the colour of their skin keeps them wholly separate. Rural Mississippi sucks the big one.

Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) goes home to stay with his brother Henry (Jason Clarke) and his new wife Laura (Carey Mulligan), who he basically saved from spinsterhood, because that’s what we call 30 year old unmarried women in the 1940s. The marriage is not exactly a romantic one, but she bears his children and lives in a hovel raising them while putting up with disgustingly judgy side looks from her creepy father in law (Jonathan Banks).

Meanwhile, just down the road, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) goes back to the shack where his family is eking out a living helping out the McAllans. It’s hard to really 170123-stern-mudbound-embed1_wdoplhdistinguish between different levels of abject poverty, but there’s no question that the white McAllan family will always be in a better position than the black Jacksons (yeah, I feel weird writing that, so go ahead and feel weird reading it). Ronsel is having trouble adjusting to this country that demands that he risk his life defending it but then will spit in his eye the moment he’s back on American soil. Tough blow.

And Jamie’s only doing nominally better because his budding friendship with Ronsel is particularly irksome to his daddy, who’s a clansman. So yeah, shit gets real. This is not a pretty movie. I didn’t have much of an opinion of Hedlund before this but I found Mudbound to be well-acted: Mulligan, Mitchell, and Mary J. Blige as Mitchell’s mother are stand-outs of course, and Jonathan Banks made me want to spit nails. Into his eyeballs. Or nutsack. Or both. Rusty ones.

This movie says a lot about race and inequality but is largely unsentimental. The setting is sparse but the characters are rich, with great performances fleshing out mudbound existence. Director Dee Rees paints a stark portrait, accurate but not antiquated.