- Movie Rating -

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

| December 30, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have not been able to go to movie theaters nor film festivals.  So now, with the help of award-season screeners, this month I am catching up.

WOW!  So here goes . . .

Charlie Kaufman has never failed to be intriguing.  His films are like little puzzle boxes that often open up to another puzzle box.  You don’t always understand it but you’re happy for the challenge.  Thus far I have generally praised his work.  Being John Malkovich and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are demented masterpieces.  I greatly admired Adaptation, and I even had some measure of love for Synecdoche, New York, despite my struggle to figure out how to pronounce ‘Synecdoche’.  Even his most difficult work leaves you with the feeling that he wants to play with your mind.

Yet, I’m sorry, his latest film just wore me out.  I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a puzzle that I wasn’t willing to fiddle with.  It’s irritating, confusing and by the end, just shallow.  It is almost literally the experience of spending the evening with a group of dinner guests who keep telling meaningless jokes and anecdotes that everyone at the table understands while you sit there basically in the dark.

The film’s hero is Lucy (Jessie Buckley) who is travelling through a worsening snowstorm with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemmons) to meet her parents for the very first time.  They’re not getting along very well, they bicker and argue like an old sitcom couple while she reveals her inner-monologue that she’s, well, thinking of ending things.  These thoughts are not tempered by the presence of his parents, his motor-mouthed mother (Toni Colette) and sullen, accusatory father (David Thewlis).  The parents are never given proper names.

The problem is that you never really get a sense of this family nor this house.  Character backstories keep changing, the house is a woefully out-of-date relic and things just happen at random for no real rhyme or reason.  As Lucy tries heroically to ingratiate herself into a family that she desperately wants to get away from (at least from my perspective) her backstory keeps changing.  Is she a painter?  A gerontologist?  A grad student?  Why does her backstory change?  Is it suppose to be some commentary on how we change our identity with each passing moment?  I don’t know.

That’s what I kept saying to myself – “I don’t know.”  The film is an abyss of ideas without ends, threads that are pulled but reveal other threads.  There is some indication that the house is haunted (I think) but the film can’t find a narrative thread to get to the damned point.  When the film isn’t switch gears at random, Kaufman lets his characters talk and talk and talk and talk in meaningless random combinations.

All through the movie I kept thinking of Get Out, another horror spoof about someone coming to meet their paramour’s family.  Yet, that film took me on a journey, offered me a guessing game and finally revealed itself in a potent third act.  This film just left me exhausted.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2020) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized