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Netflix I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (2020) Charlie Kaufman (1 Viewer)

JoeStemme

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A young man invites his new girlfriend to drive out and meet his parents. A simple enough set-up for film, even if the title hints that all may not go well. But, in this fun-house mirror of a movie, all is not as it appears. Anyone familiar with the work of Charlie Kaufman (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK) won't either be surprised or expect anything else.
The young man is Jake (Jesse Plemmons; quite good) and the unnamed girlfriend (who also narrates) is played by an excellent Jesse Buckley. The extended drive in a raging snowstorm to his family home takes over 20 minutes. By the time they arrive there is already a sense of dread from the title, the creepy narration and an overall mood of upcoming doom. Meeting the parents doesn't ease the tension. The couple (Toni Collette, David Thewlis) seem to age and de-age at will as if showing the span of Jake's relationship with them. Meanwhile, a middle-aged Janitor (Guy Boyd) toils away alone in the local high school. A visit to Jake's boyhood bedroom reveals it's own house of horrors along with clues as to what may be going on inside his fractured mind.
The sustained build-up has no release valve. The mood is unbearably tense, abetted by Lukasz Zal's (IDA) cinematography, Jay Wadley's score and Molly Hughes' production design The movie is framed in the classic 1:37 aspect ratio to heighten the constrained feel. But, the damn doesn't burst. Instead, it's back in Jake's car and the pair travel back in the snowstorm in a sequence even longer than the initial drive. The two stories interconnect at the High School when the young couple meet the Janitor. This brings the story some sense of structure, but, the movie still raises more concerns than solace.
Kaufman's script takes liberties from Ian Reid's novel - again, one expects nothing less from him. Kaufman's obsession with puppets and marionettes (including an entire film, ANAMOLISA, made entirely of claymation models), is again on display here with an extended Mime sequence. Is it his way of saying that he is pulling the strings of the audience? As noted at the outset, ENDING THINGS is a bit of a fun-house mirror - what reflects off of it is a distortion and open to interpretation. Kaufman has never evoked David Lynch as much he does here - in particular, the driving sequences and dark visions of LOST HIGHWAY. The literary and cultural references are reminiscent of Godard at his most obtuse (at one point, one of the characters quotes an entire Pauline Kael film review; there is a Kael book in Jake's bedroom).
I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS isn't an easy sit. Kaufman has a brilliant mind and has skills as a Director. But, like with Lynch, sometimes their films seem to only exist in the minds of the filmmakers. One can decipher the clues and piece together some sort of notion of “what it all means”, but, isn't it part of an artist's job to share his vision with his audience? To challenge, certainly. But, not to be so selfish as to frustrate. It's both brilliant and not so satisfying.
 

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