Sunday, January 17, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 46
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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
A VIGILANTE
BEST WISHES, WARMEST REGARDS: A SCHITT’S CREEK FAREWELL
BINGABLE: ABANDONED (2016)
BINGEABLE: BARRY
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG
BINGEABLE: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARIES
BINGEABLE: OUTLANDER (2014-present)
BINGEABLE: STRANGER THINGS 3
BINGEABLE: THE SINNER (SEASON 2)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: COOL RUNNINGS (1993)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE PRESTIGE (2006)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: WILD AT HEART (1990)
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
DA 5 BLOODS
ENOLA HOLMES
FIRST COW
GUILTY PLEASURES: CHEER (2020)
HAPPIEST SEASON
HAVE A GOOD TRIP: ADVENTURES IN PSYCHEDELICS
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
HONEST THIEF
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
LYING AND STEALING
MANK
SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! AN AUDIO MISADVENTURE (2011)
SOUL
SUPERINTELLIGENCE
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE MIDNIGHT SKY
THE OPERATIVE
THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN
THE PROM
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN
THE VAST OF NIGHT
TREAD
TV REVIEW: BOSCH
TV REVIEW: DEFENDING JACOB
TV REVIEW: EVIL
TV REVIEW: FEAR CITY
TV REVIEW: HELL ON WHEELS (2011-2016)
TV REVIEW: HOMECOMING
TV REVIEW: I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE
TV REVIEW: I MAY DESTROY YOU
TV REVIEW: I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
TV REVIEW: JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS
TV REVIEW: LENOX HILL
TV REVIEW: LITTLE AMERICA
TV REVIEW: LOVECRAFT COUNTRY
TV REVIEW: MRS. AMERICA
TV REVIEW: RAMY
TV REVIEW: RUN
TV REVIEW: SPACE FORCE
TV REVIEW: TABOO
TV REVIEW: THE BOYS
TV REVIEW: THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD
TV REVIEW: THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
TV REVIEW: THE GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW (SEASON 11)
TV REVIEW: THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR
TV REVIEW: THE LAST KINGDOM
TV REVIEW: THE MIDNIGHT GOSPEL
TV REVIEW: THE MORNING SHOW
TV REVIEW: THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL
TV REVIEW: THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA
TV REVIEW: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
TV REVIEW: THE THIRD DAY
TV REVIEW: THE VOW
TV REVIEW: TREADSTONE (2019)
TV REVIEW: UNDONE
TV REVIEW: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
TV REVIEW: ZEROZEROZERO
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
UNDERRATED: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL (2014)
WONDER WOMAN 1984

'I’m Thinking of Ending Things' finds Charlie Kaufman again exploring the male psyche

I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS

PHOTO BY , COURTESY OF LIKELY STORY

I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS


Where is it playing?: Netflix

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $Full price (Anna Starkey)

What's it worth?: $Full price (Glen Starkey)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Editor’s note: While New Times Staff Writer Karen Garcia reviewed this film in our Sept. 17 issue, this film is so compelling that Glen and Anna decided to dive in for themselves.

Writer-director Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Anomolisa) helms this surreal tale that on the surface is about a young woman (Jessie Buckley) going to meet her boyfriend’s (Jesse Plemons) parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) for the first time, but is really about memory, longing, and regret. Based on Iain Reid’s 2016 novel, the film offers a confusing but fascinating look at the male psyche. (134 min.)

Glen: After this film ends, you might, like me, go looking for answers. I recommend IndieWire’s “Charlie Kaufman’s Guide to I’m Thinking of Ending Things: The Director Explains Its Mysteries,” but before you read that, watch this film, succumb to it, let it wash over you, and just go with it! Like other Kaufman films, it gets really weird, but it’s so compelling. You know you’re watching something profound, but it feels just out of reach of your understanding. Ostensibly about a young woman reluctantly going to meet her boyfriend’s parents—a boyfriend, I should add, who she’s thinking of breaking up with—it’s really about the boyfriend, Jake, and his own memories and regrets. Jake’s a fascinating character brought to life by Plemons. He seems like a good guy, a smart guy, but a complicated guy. His relationship with his parents is strained, and as the evening wears on, we start to question if he’s really a good guy after all. Meanwhile, the young woman (who’s called by various names through the film) is clearly struggling with her relationship with Jake. The film’s voiceover is her thoughts, and so it can at times seem like the story’s about her, but it’s really about Jake. Kaufman is well known as a voracious reader, art lover, and film buff, so there are references galore throughout, but whether you get them all or not, the film remains both entertaining and confounding. For instance, you’ll wonder until the third act why the film keeps cutting to scenes of an aged janitor cleaning a high school during a production of the musical Oklahoma! Don’t worry. It becomes clearer!

Anna: I sort of had an idea of where this was going, though even then there was a bunch to parse. Buckley plays the enigmatic lead, unwilling to fall into happiness just because of the ease of it all. She tries to talk herself into liking Jake but can’t quite convince herself; she knows once again the end is near. But what’s one dinner with the parents with a promise of a drive home? To say the night takes some odd turns is an understatement. Jake may be smart, but he is insecure—embarrassed by his parents, especially his seemingly doltish mother who appears to be losing her grip on reality minute by minute. Time plays tricks on you in this film and soon you’ll be asking yourself if you just saw what you think you saw, or perhaps just a trick of the light? Soon enough it all becomes a mind game where who and what to believe becomes increasingly muddled. It’s incredibly fascinating, as Kaufman’s films always are. The meat is in the small moments, the confusing but quiet clues we are given, and inevitably the conclusion that leaves a dazed look on your face. I didn’t know what to expect from this, and I’ll say I got the unexpected. It’s a film you’ll most likely think about for a long time after the credits roll.

Glen: My favorite moment is when, during the drive, Jake and the young woman begin to talk about John Cassavetes’ 1974 film A Woman Under the Influence, for which he was nominated for a Best Director Academy Award. Suddenly the young woman begins a searing dissertation on the film, which is actually a verbatim recitation of New York film critic Pauline Kael’s scathing review of Cassavetes’ film. I love reading Kael, whose reviews were brilliant, biting, and highly opinionated, so I recognized her words coming out of the young woman’s mouth. Earlier in the film when the young woman was in Jake’s childhood bedroom, we saw a book of Kael’s film criticism, as well as other items—books, videos, artwork—referenced in the film. Like I said, you don’t need to “get” all this to enjoy the film, but it makes the film much for fun when you do. The film’s end is very open, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some viewers think, “That’s it? Huh?” But there is a sense of resolution, and if you read IndieWire’s explanation, I think you’ll enjoy the film even more and want to return to it to revel in all of Kaufman’s references. I’d love to read what Kael thinks of the film, but alas, she died in 2001.

Anna: At some point we start to piece together that we may be looking at some sort of other world, and the young woman’s desperation to return to the city keeps falling on deaf ears. Jake is such an odd and complex character; he prides himself on his intelligence yet still feels woefully inadequate. When the two are finally back on the road, they stop for a late night ice cream, and the stand is manned by three young women, two of them cliquey, popular, and pretty, and one very sweet but markedly less striking. Jake can’t even bring himself to look at them, reverting to the mannerisms of an embarrassed child, and I couldn’t help but wonder what in the world is going on with this guy? Kaufman’s films can take a while to figure out, and this one is no different. It may be introspective and quiet, but it is also fascinating. As you mentioned, the ending comes a bit unexpectedly and without concrete resolve, but that’s a neat trick to keep the audience thinking about your film for a long time, and it worked again here. This is definitely worth a watch when you have the headspace for it. 

New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Sun Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.










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