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Review: The Last Face

The Last Face
07.27.2017
3 10

PLOT: Two doctors (Charlize Theron & Javier Bardem) working for an international aid organization in Africa, fall in love against the backdrop of war in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan.

REVIEW: There was a time when Sean Penn’s THE LAST FACE was showing up on critics’ lists of the most anticipated films in production, and prior to its 2016 Cannes debut, many thought it was a surefire Oscar contender. All that talk ended following its disastrous Cannes press screening, and the noxious buzz doomed this to a small-scale VOD release, despite star Charlize Theron being at the height of her stardom.

There’s something perverse in how THE LAST FACE is being timed to hit VOD (and a handful of theaters) the same day her ATOMIC BLONDE comes out. Hopefully, for her sake, this one will slip right under the radar, as it’s one of the most narcissistic, wrong-headed star vehicles ever made. Next to this, the similarly themed Angelina Jolie-starrer, BEYOND BORDERS, seems like a masterpiece.

To be fair, neither Theron nor Bardem should take as much ownership as director Sean Penn. He has a mixed record as a helmer, but INTO THE WILD was a masterpiece, so one can see what enticed them. Having a good humanitarian record, one would think Penn would have made something worth watching, but right from the start, which has text that compares the civil war in Sierra Leone to the love between a man and a woman, one can see that THE LAST FACE is gonna be a doozy.

What’s stunningly wrong-headed is how, being a movie that takes place in conflict zones in Africa, all the leads are westerners. The violence of the war zones the two characters find themselves in is practically incidental to the plot, as the torrid romance between the two is what this is really about. As aid doctors, Bardem and Theron are impossibly glamourous, with her dressed in what could be called “humanitarian chic” and perfect make-up, while his hair is always perfect and his designer stubble impeccable. One also can’t help but notice the moody Bardem, with his bicep baring t-shirts, seems to have his look patterned on Penn himself, and one wonders how Penn ever managed to fight the urge to cast himself opposite his former girlfriend, Theron.

Throughout, any black characters remain peripheral until the occasional blast of ultra-violence, tossed-in to endanger our heroes. The other doctors, played by Jean Reno and Jared Harris don’t fare much better, and Adèle Exarchopoulos exists only to provide some romantic peril, when it turns out she’s HIV positive and has also been sleeping with Bardem.

Penn must be a pretty smooth operator to have recruited so many names for his film, which extends to behind the scenes talent as well, with cinematography by Barry Ackroyd and a score by Hans Zimmer. Technically, Penn is solid, as it’s a handsome, well-shot film, but the story is a travesty, and the performances from Bardem and Theron are arguably their worst ever for how self-important they are, particularly Theron, who’s saddled with lots of speeches seemingly directed at the western audience, accusing them of apathy.

A major embarrassment for all involved, THE LAST FACE would likely be a prime Razzie contender were this getting a more high-profile release, and it’s likely in the best interests of the stars to sweep this one under the rug. If you’d like to see a good film about a similar subject, check out BEASTS OF NO NATION. Skip this one entirely – as it’ll do nothing but make you lose massive amounts of respect for all involved.

Source: JoBlo.com

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