Actor-filmmaker Sean Penn’s latest directorial effort, The Last Face, was eviscerated by an array of film critics in entertainment media and on social media following its world premiere Friday at the Cannes Film Festival.
Professional film critics took to Twitter Friday to snipe at the apparently horrific film, while entertainment outlets like Variety and The Wrap published merciless long-form reviews.
“Unforgivably dreadful. Well-intended refugee drama let down in every area. Staggeringly bad,” The Irish Times’ Donald Clarke tweeted.
It’s a “transcendently bad movie about aid workers and African suffering,” tweeted Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore. “But to its credit, the romance is actually worse.”
The Last Face, which features a star-studded cast in Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem and Jean Reno, centers on an international aid agency director and a doctor and explores the perils of their romance as they attempt to bring medical relief to war-torn Liberia. Penn is reportedly shopping the feature around at Cannes in an attempt to land a distribution deal.
But critics called the film shallow, and a paler imitation of other feel-good humanitarian movies that had come before it.
“The Last Face is Sean Penn’s version of an Angelina Jolie movie,” wrote Variety’s Owen Glieberman. “It keeps advertising its compassion, yet it’s really a drama about two beautiful movie stars trying to save the world. Who, after all, can’t identify with that?”
“[The Last Face is] an extended Band Aid video, shoddily assembled to be screened at galas filled with the guilty elite sipping champagne while frowning at close-ups of tearful orphans,” wrote The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee.
Penn responded to the near-universal condemnation of The Last Face on Friday, telling reporters at a press conference that he “stand[s] by the film as it is, and everyone is going to be entitled to their response.”
He also reportedly referenced GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump in explaining that he felt out of touch with the creative taste of Hollywood.
“It’s important to entertain if entertainment is not synonymous with Donald Trump’s behavior,” he added at the press conference. “Too much of film is today.”
Penn has won two Best Actor Oscars — one in 2004 for Mystic River and another in 2009 for Milk — and has been nominated for the award three other times. His last directorial effort was 2007’s Alaskan wilderness survival drama Into the Wild, which received two Oscar nominations.
Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @jeromeehudson