As has been the case with every maddening, brilliant, irritating, gloriously profound work from writer/director Charlie Kaufman, I’m left with two very distinct minds about I’m Thinking of Ending Things.
Ryan’s Mind One: How am I supposed to even review a movie in which just discussing who the characters are is a spoiler?
Ryan’s Mind Two: Aw, poor baby. Did the bad man’s movie make your brain hurt? Not every review can be about Chris Hemsworth’s meaty paws caving dudes’ skulls in.
Seriously though, what does a synopsis of this even look like?
Jake (Jesse Plemons) and his girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) go to visit his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis). Shit gets weird.
Perfect. Who could possibly be confused about what happens given that in-depth description?
Trying to figure things out is kind of the point of watching the movie. Come to think of it, deciphering what everything really means is kind of the point of watching every movie.
I get it, you love “dialoguing with film.” Should it be this hard?
Oh please, it wasn’t hard in any way to figure out what was actually happening. Kaufman all but tells you like 15 minutes into the car ride to Jake’s folks’ place. The minute Kaufman introduced the janitor, I fully “got it.”
You didn’t mention the janitor in your synopsis though. Is that maybe because the whole thing is really just an empty house of cards that falls apart when you understand “the reveal” about what’s happening?
This is not the Netflix House of Cards that falls apart after something is revealed about one of its stars.
Sick Kevin Spacey burn, bro… Seriously, isn’t Kaufman’s weird bullshit exhausting? A ballet sequence? A song from Oklahoma!? A character literally turning into Pauline Kael?
No it’s not exhausting, most artists in most creative fields have signature styles.
The ballet sequence is actually the key to unlocking the meaning of the whole thing.
The song from Oklahoma! is a soul-rending substitute for the gory ending of the novel the film is adapted from.
And if you don’t want more Kael in your life, especially when an actress as impossibly talented as Buckley portrays her, you need hella hella help.
Is it misogynistic though?
Nope. Given the revelations in the film, is this the grossest manifestation of the manic pixie dream girl this side of Hook?
Maybe? Look, a criticism that puts forth this entire thing as a grotesque objectification is absolutely defensible. But…
Yes, by all means, apologize away for the misunderstood white artiste…
To me, the film reads as a deconstruction of the dangerous lonely white boy that doesn’t forgive or apologize any shitty actual actions. It explicitly makes those actions fictional and separates that out from the character’s loneliness, allowing us to sympathize with just that part.
So you feel bad for Jake?
I do. And I can’t further explain why I’m not troubled about the depiction of Buckley’s character without spoiling things.
I know! Look, here’s the big thing…
The big thing is that Kaufman movies feel smart, they feel like you should see them as genius, even if you don’t necessarily enjoy any moment of it while it’s happening.
Nope. Tell me. Did you like it?
See there you go.
You didn’t let me tell you the big thing.
Fine. “Big thing” me.
Love them or hate them, Kaufman movies are singularly engaging. It’s fine if that engagement makes you upset or if you ultimately think that there’s not much “there” actually there. But in the same way that we have created a culture that allows Fast and Furious movies to be increasingly stupid and nonsensical…
You watch your poop mouth!
No judgment! My point is, if we have all collectively agreed that “shut your brain off” movies are okay and even fun, why can’t “turn your brain all the way on” movies be just as okay and even fun?
Because it does things like make me talk to myself.
And didn’t you have a good time?
I’ll take it.
Grade = A
Other Critical Voices to Consider
For real, just the reviews of this one are incredible and thought-provoking to read. For example:
- Rachel Wagner of rachelsreviews.net says “I can’t lie and say something moved me when it did not.”
- Michelle Kisner at The Movie Sleuth tackles the relationship stuff really insightfully, noting “Some men want women smart enough to validate their intelligence but not smarter than them so that they don’t feel emasculated.”
- Rendy Jones at rendyreviews.com reminds everyone “Never watch a Charlie Kaufman movie before bed.”
- Angie Han at Mashable absolutely brilliantly explains how the film “reorganizes reality so it feels truer than objective truth. Kaufman’s gift is that he’s better than perhaps any living filmmaker at literalizing the subjective experience of existence.”