Director Ridley Scott’s new film tries to morph a true story of rape in medieval times into a metaphor for the plight of modern women, but doesn’t go far enough for some, showing the pointlessness of trying to pander to the woke.
This article contains plot points and minor spoilers for ‘The Last Duel.’
Despite its best efforts to be a #MeToo movie, the director’s new offering ‘The Last Duel’ is being chastised by some virtue-signaling critics.
The film, set in France in 1386, tells the true ‘he-said-she-said’ tale of Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer), Jean’s wife, who claims that Le Gris has raped her.
Scott makes the wise decision to structure the film ‘Rashomon’-style, where the perspectives of three main characters are shown around the same single contentious event.
The story is broken down into three chapters titled “The truth according to…” Jean, Jacques and Marguerite. Unfortunately, Scott tips his rather heavy hand when he lets on that it is Marguerite’s story that is really the “truth” of the incident.
This choice, to have Marguerite’s subjective experience be deemed the objective truth, greatly undermines both the dramatic and artistic potential of the film. This decision felt like it was made in order to appease the #MeToo mob, who can become hysterical over any perceived slights.
The film’s star and co-writer, Damon, knows this all too well, as he caught some serious flak when, at the height of the #MeToo mania, he dared to say something rational about how there’s a difference between a pat on the backside and rape, which infuriated the pussy-hat brigade.
The filmmakers (Scott and co-writers Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener) aggressively let the audience know they side with Marguerite but, excluding the actual rape, her version of events seems just as narcissistic, fantastical and delusional as Jean’s and Jacques’.
Jean and Jacques both self-righteously see themselves as noble and honorable warriors who are kind of heart. Their perspective is, of course, skewed by self-interest, but the filmmakers refuse to hold Marguerite to the same standard.
Marguerite sees both Jean and Jacques as beasts, and that may be true, but her vision of herself is so saintly as to be hilarious, as even the lie she tells is noble. Marguerite is portrayed not only as a loyal and well-intentioned wife, but also brilliant. For instance, she effortlessly turns around illiterate Jean’s business fortunes, collecting debts and breeding horses, while he is off fighting a war for money.
As a female character in the film correctly declares, “There is no ‘right,’ there is only the power of men!,” which is an unintentional and uncomfortable truth revealed not only about the medieval men in question, but also about modern-day feminism and its adherents. As ‘The Last Duel’ shows, feminism is only born in a bubble of prosperity built by the brute force of ferocious men, and it’s a sign of decadence, if not delusion.
Yet, despite ‘The Last Duel’s insipid #MeToo pandering and cinematic flaws, and even in spite of myself, I actually liked the film and found it entertaining, which is a testament to both Scott’s directorial skill and of my thirst for remotely decent, adult-oriented cinema in our current cultural desert.
Yes, some of the worst hair-dos in cinematic history are featured in ‘The Last Duel,’ with Damon sporting a mule-kick of a medieval mullet, and Affleck – who chews scenery as debauched royal Count Pierre – looking like he got a free bowl of soup with his haircut. But the movie also has an undeniable momentum to it that is cinematically compelling and climaxes with the bone-crunching, deliriously satisfying duel.
Unlike me, The New Yorker’s critic and resident virtue-signaler Richard Brody actually despised the film because it wasn’t feminist enough, calling it a “wannabe #MeToo movie.”
Brody got the vapors because Scott dared show the rape of Marguerite twice – once from Jacques’ perspective and once from Marguerite’s. To be clear, the rape is uncomfortable – it’s a rape, after all – but it isn’t gratuitous, there’s no nudity and it’s as tasteful as it could be under the circumstances.
Despite this, Brody writes of the rape scene, “I was gripped with unease–not with horror but with a queasy sense of witnessing a visual exploitation of that horror.” Brody, I’d like to remind you, wasn’t filled with any unease, but rather ecstatic glee, as he once gushed over the Netflix film ‘Cuties’, which graphically hyper-sexualized 11-year-old girls to an alarming degree, calling it “extraordinary.”
Brody closes his review by chastising Scott, claiming he should’ve displayed “…the cinematic artistry and, even more, the cinematic ethic…” to not “…show the rape even once.”
According to Brody, Scott should have “put the cinematic onus on…himself – to affirm that Le Gris raped Marguerite, to believe her not because Scott himself created his own image of ostensible veracity to justify and prove her claim but because she said so.”
This is Brody turning the virtue signaling up to eleven by basically saying Scott didn’t rigorously enough embrace the ethic of “believe all women.”
The buffoonish Brody and his ilk are why no artist should ever try to pander to the insidiously woke. No matter what you do, it’ll never be enough. Nuance is never allowed, only reverence for the cause and compliance with the woke’s ever-changing demands.
The bottom line is that ‘The Last Duel’ undeniably has flaws, its most potentially fatal one being that it tried to appease the unpleasant and unpleasable #MeToo woke mob. But thanks to Scott’s craftsmanship, it’s a well-enough-made movie to overcome its considerable shortcomings and short-sightedness and ultimately be deemed worthy of a watch.