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Review: The Last Duel Fails to Vanquish #MeToo Controversy

Review: The Last Duel Fails to Vanquish #MeToo Controversy

The Last Duel (2021)

Ridley Scott’s 2021 film The Last Duel really tries to convince its audience that it is a feminist film. The story is centered around the rape of Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer), and it recounts this event  from three perspectives.  First, the husband Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), then the accused rapist Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) and finally, Marguerite tells her experience.

Both de Carrouges and Le Gris have sworn allegiance to Count Pierre d’Alencon (Ben Affleck) Thus, there is competitiveness set up between the male characters that leads them to view Marguerite as an additional competition. In an attempt to be progressive, Marguerite’s story is framed as “the true version” which is great, however, it is hard to celebrate as the audience is forced to watch women be violently raped several times throughout  the film. The film’s insistence on repeating Marguerite’s rape scene through different storylines is still difficult to watch despite its use in highlighting the violence and cruelty of the crime. For a film claiming to be progressive in telling true stories of women, it does so in a way that makes it difficult for women even to watch, as we know most women are victims or know victims of sexual assault. The film drags for two-and-a-half hours, the first two-thirds of the film are centered around awful men, but the silver lining is Marguerite’s story. Despite never fully achieving the same development as the male characters, Marguerite gets to tell her own experiences and become a three-dimensional character rather than just an object that men are fighting for. Marguerite is arguably the only likable character in the entire film and one can’t help but root for an outcome where she is allowed peace. By the end of the film, we watch two men, one a rapist, the other more concerned about his pride than his wife, fight to the death. Watching this film I hoped there was a way that both men would die a painful horrific death and Marguerite would be allowed to live a happy life. Perhaps The Last Duel is a truly feminist film as it reminds us that men shouldn’t attempt to write stories about women, but I doubt that  was intended when it was produced. 

 The film is based on the book of the same title, which had been rewritten for film by Nicole Holofcener as well as both Affleck and Damon. Adding to the overall difficulties with the film itself, the inclusion of these two as writers taint this film. This film serves as a poor attempt to right their wrongs after receiving heavy backlash due to their behavior during the #MeToo movement. Damon made comments that align with the “not all men” sentiment meanwhile, Affleck had been directly accused of groping women and defending his brother, Casey Affleck, despite accusations of sexual harassment being levied against him. Thus, it seems somewhat ironic that the two would feel so justified in inserting themselves in a story centered around a female victim. But perhaps their efforts in acknowledging their wrongdoings are to show how awful men can be through their performances. It is up to each audience member to decide if The Last Duel is truly a good-faith effort to acknowledge the evils of toxic men or if Affleck and Damon just don’t know when to give it a rest.

Written by Grace LaNasa for The Film Dispatch


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