After six months of being with Jess Plemon’s Jake, Jessie Buckley, who plays his girlfriend, is thinking of ending their relationship. Trapped by both her politeness and the snowbound car she’s sharing with Jake, she has somewhat reluctantly agreed to visit his parents with him. However, when they arrive, she notices that something is decidedly off. Scratches on the basement door, tales of a maggot-infested pig and then when Jake’s parents start to travel back and forth in time, she really has to question everything she thought she knew about Jake.
…Kaufman’s latest is either a career-high point or an overly taxing journey, depending on your point of view.
Based on Ian Reid’s book, Being John Malkovich writer-director Charlie Kaufman’s latest movie is another cerebrally-charged, deep dive into existential angst.
Shot in a square-like aspect ratio, everything about the film feels cramped from the offset. From Jessie Buckley’s opening inner monologue of Jake’s failings as a boyfriend to his continual badgering her to entertain him with her latest poem, it’s clear this is a film about grossly internalised characters. Teasing you with the idea that they will break under the childish proddings of Toni Collette and David Thewlis as Jake’s demented parents, Kaufman teases you with a tale about the-boyfriend-from-hell who has shepherded his date to his cannibalistic family – but no. This is Charlie Kaufman of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, not Wes Craven, and having arranged everything neatly to lead to just such a genre assumption, he’s now going to play with your food before you eat it.
Deliberately loading each sentence with as much portent as they will take, Kaufman instead pulls a series of From Dusk till Dawn switcheroos. Hiding both the real intentions of his characters – and the plot itself – his adaptation of I’m Thinking of Ending Things becomes a cracked mirror of jarring puzzle pieces, where, by its end, it can be pretty much anything you want it to be. Deliberately sending out his characters out across cracked eggshells, it’s clear that they’ve have been primed with suspicion, just not any clarity as to their purpose.
From its self-consciously overly-erudite dialogue to its meandering plotline, Kaufman’s latest is either a career-high point or an overly taxing journey, depending on your point of view. In either case, neither is a toll-free ride and whilst the performances of the four principals is beyond reproach, the vessel they find themselves in, sadly runs aground on borderline smugness.
Arresting and intriguing up until the abandonment of Jordan Peele’s Get-Out setup, I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ becomes a long drive into vagueness, only matched by its 2 hours plus running time.
Hopelessly convoluted in comparison to Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, this is one I’d suggest you skip unless you’re both seriously wide awake and have the requisite patience to go where it takes you.