This article has spoilers. I think. Not that it matters.
God, another existential navel-gazing movie from Charlie Kaufman. How should I start?
Perhaps explaining the storyline. It feels like it’s not gonna help anyone. I felt simultaneously confused and intrigued while watching the film; not a pleasant feeling, but I’ve felt worse.
The film centres around two characters, Lucy, which is probably not her name. She’s played by Jessie Buckley—I’m fairly sure that’s her real name. I know that because I looked it up, and it was disappointing in a way. It doesn’t feel important for the plot, the character’s name that is.
Lucy has a boyfriend, and his name is Jake, played by Jesse Plemons. They drive through a snowstorm to visit Jake’s parents, but Lucy is thinking of ending things. They have dated for around six weeks. Or was it seven? There is a snowstorm. And then there are the parents, brilliantly portrayed by Toni Collette and David Thewlis. And their ages shift as the evening progresses. It probably means something; it doesn’t feel important, either. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that I didn’t really understand the importance of it.
This is how desperate we have become
The movie is an adaptation of Canadian writer Iain Reid’s 2016 novel “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” That’s basically why I’m writing this film review; because Iain is the brother of Iceland’s First Lady and former Grapevine staff writer Eliza Reid. This is what Icelanders do; we claim talented people, even if they’re just innocent bystanders, or siblings with no other connection to Iceland. But, in our defence, Iain mentions Iceland in the book. This is how desperate we have become. I should definitely not mention that.
I read the novel some years ago (in Icelandic) and I re-read it after I watched the film (in English). The novel is still great and surprisingly deep and powerful. The strongest points are the elaborated dialogues, the weak point is the weird marketing scheme around the book, where the publisher tried to sell it as a thriller. It’s not. Not really. That misconception still bothers me.
Kaufman swaps out a lot of smart dialogues from the book with his own. Some of it is completely unbearable. Conversations are so strained and superficial that it occurred to me at one point that maybe that was supposed to be a joke in itself (it probably is). It also occurred to me that these characters were hollow idiots who have locked themselves in some tormenting intellectual mind-prison of loneliness (which they have).
The most dramatic point of the movie is when my girlfriend fell asleep, right before the end. Just minutes before the odd dream-dance scene broke out with some Oklahoma reference, in Jake’s old high school. Her sleeping felt like a judgemental comment about my taste in movies. At the same time, I was glad that she missed the dance scene. She’s too cynical for stuff like that.
Strike this out
The plot twist is clear in the book, even quite mind-blowing. In the movie, it’s confusing. I have never seen Oklahoma. I’m not even sure if anyone outside of the US has any cultural understanding of that play and the odd underlying American myth it entails. Or if anybody outside the US really cares.
This sounds too harsh and generalizing. I should strike that out.
Better than 95%
In a way, it’s useless to compare the movie to the book. I don’t know why I keep doing it. Probably because of the ending of the book and the film are so unlike. The movie doesn’t really work because of its absurd ending, although there are scenes in the movie that suggest the ending of the book and therefore the plot of it all.
Jesus, how confusing does this have to be? This is an awful review. I should just tell people that I like the film, it’s probably better than 95% of the stuff I’ve seen this year. Then again, why am I saying anything, I’m only a lucid dream in Hannah Jane Cohen’s mind.
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