I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS – Review by Susan Granger

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While writer/director Charlie Kaufman’s films –Syndoche, New York, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation – are, admittedly, an acquired taste, his latest venture into dual identities and dreamlike realities is his most eerie, abstract and confusing.

Based on Canadian writer Ian Reid’s 2016 novel, it begins with a young poet/physicist, Lucy (Jessie Buckley), uttering that phrase while her boyfriend, Jack (Jesse Plemons), drives her to meet his parents. There’s an impending blizzard as Lucy evaluates the uncertainty of this current romantic relationship.

Jake’s creepy parents (Toni Collette, David Thewlis) live in a rural farmhouse. They’re as socially awkward as Jake. The disorienting family dinner is decidedly surreal – perhaps because the parents seem to drastically age right before-our-eyes.

Periodically, the scene shifts to an elderly high school janitor (Guy Boyd) who is contemplating suicide. As it turns out “Jake” is an idealized version of his younger self. It’s a vague point but its veracity is glimpsed as Lucy removes some of the janitor’s blue uniforms from the washer/dryer in the basement.

Meanwhile, throughout the narrative, there are allusions to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma. The janitor enjoys watching a high-school production of the popular musical, including the bizarre dream ballet sequence spilling into the deserted hallway.

Perhaps the symbolism of that dance is the key to understanding Charlie Kaufman’s elusive doppelganger concept because Jake has been pretending he’s someone else and the Oklahoma reference, plus Jud Fry’s warbling Lonely Room, serves to eliminate that delusion.

Sprinkled into the dialogue are lengthy quotes from poet Eva H.D. and film critic Pauline Kael, along with a debate about the lyrics to the song Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Then the film concludes with Jake reciting the Nobel Prize acceptance speech delivered by schizophrenia-afflicted economist John Nash in Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a frustrating, fantastical 5. You’ll need a lot of patience to sit through it

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.