“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a terrific movie title for a year in which each month that passes has taken a “hold my beer” alacrity to one-upping the awfulness that preceded it. The fact that the movie was directed by perpetually inventive misanthrope Charlie Kaufman would seem to promise at least a diverting, brain puzzle-type examination of human experience.
For a while, this movie is that, but then it gets lost in its own head (something which you’d actually expect to happen to Kaufman movies more often than it does). It starts out as a fairly compelling two-hander, with its leads bantering on an extended drive to visit family, interlaced with a surprisingly deft voiceover (voiceovers are never surprisingly deft). Eventually though it starts falling back to standard Kaufman shorthand: dream logic blocking, elliptical editing, jump scare cutaways etc.
No one else can do this stuff like Kaufman can and so few even try, so it’s somewhat forgivable that little of it rises above the amusing. But the last third, which is by turns reminiscent of a rather unenthusiastic David Lynch or Jean-Luc Godard flick, feels much less assured as it devolves into a game of semiotic Clue, leaving the viewer to match up wryly dropped hints with narrative twists. Kaufman does not want to telegraph the “meaning” of it all or do all of the expository work for the viewer, which is fair, but I’m not convinced he’s fully doing his job as a storyteller, either.
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a disappointment but then again most of what we’re getting to see this year has been disappointing. I wrote in August about how subpar most of the direct-to-Netflix fare has been in general, but we’re also living through a pretty rough drought of genuinely entertaining movies that may stretch on for a long time. On the one hand, studios are holding back their most anticipated films until such a time when theater-going is a thing again. And on the other hand, the pandemic has surely paused or deferred production for a ton of what would have been entertaining to see next year, too.
Sorry, didn’t mean to be such a downer there.
In total I watched fifteen movies last month. Here’s the full list.