I'm Thinking of Ending Things
|I'm Thinking of Ending Things|
|Directed by||Charlie Kaufman|
|Screenplay by||Charlie Kaufman|
|Based on||I'm Thinking of Ending Things|
by Iain Reid
|Music by||Jay Wadley|
|Edited by||Robert Frazen|
I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a 2020 American surrealist psychological thriller film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. The film is based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Iain Reid and stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things was released in select theaters on August 28, 2020, and on Netflix on September 4, 2020. It received positive reviews from critics, who praised the two lead performances and the cinematography.
A young woman contemplates ending her seven-week relationship with her boyfriend Jake, while on a trip to meet his parents at their farm. During the drive, Jake attempts to recite a poem he read when he was younger, Ode: Intimations of Immortality, and pressures the young woman into reciting one of her poems to pass time. After she recites a morbid poem about coming home, they arrive at the farmhouse owned by Jake's parents. Jake takes her to the barn, where he recounts a story about how the farm's pigs died after being eaten alive by maggots. Throughout the drive, as well as later scenes in the film, the main narrative is intercut with footage of an elderly janitor working at a high school, including scenes where he sees students rehearsing Oklahoma! and dancing in the hallway.
Upon arrival, the young woman notices scratches on the basement door. At dinner with Jake's parents, she, whose occupation and name change throughout, shows them photographs of her landscape paintings and explains how she met Jake at a trivia night in a bar, with narrative inconsistencies. Later, she notices a picture of Jake as a child, but becomes confused after recognizing that child as herself. She receives a call from a friend with a female name, where a mysterious male voice explains that there is "one question to answer". Over the course of the night, Jake's parents unexpectedly transform into their younger and older selves. When she takes a nightgown down to the basement to wash, she discovers several janitor uniforms in the washing machine and finds posters for exhibitions of Ralph Albert Blakelock paintings seemingly identical to her own. She also receives another call from the same mysterious voice.
On the drive home, Jake claims that the young woman drank too much wine, along with other inconsistent events; word association leads to an extended critical discussion of John Cassavetes's A Woman Under the Influence.[a] They stop at Tulsey Town, a drive-through ice cream stand, whose employees are students at the janitor's school. While the young woman buys ice cream, an employee with a rash attempts to warn her of something she can't describe. Jake stops at the high school to throw the ice-cream cups away. After a heated argument in the parking lot about the lyrics of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the couple share a kiss. Suddenly, Jake notices the janitor watching them from inside the school and decides to confront him, leaving the young woman alone in the car. After a long wait, she decides to look for Jake inside the school. She meets the janitor and asks him where Jake is, but she cannot remember what Jake looks like. She tells the janitor that nothing happened between her and Jake on the night they met, instead claiming Jake made her uncomfortable by staring at her.
After she discovers Jake at the end of a hall, they look on as people dressed like Jake, the young woman and the janitor engage in a ballet,[b] which ends when the janitor's dancer kills Jake's dancer with a knife.
Having finished his shift, the janitor enters his car but does not start the motor. He experiences hallucinations of Jake's parents and animated Tulsey Town commercials. The janitor then takes off his clothes and walks back inside the school, led by the hallucination of a maggot-infested pig who tells him that he and his ideas are one and the same, and that he should get dressed.
On an auditorium stage, an old Jake receives a Nobel Prize[c] and sings a song from Oklahoma![d] to an audience of people from his life, all of them in theatrical old-age makeup. They give him a standing ovation. In the final shot, the janitor's car is covered in snow in the school parking lot. Towards the end of the credits, "scraping," "clunking" and "whirring" sounds are heard.
- Jesse Plemons as Jake
- Ryan Laughtner Steele as dancing Jake
- Jessie Buckley as young woman, referred to by several names throughout the film, including Lucy, Louisa, Lucia and Ames.
- Unity Phelan as dancing young woman
- Toni Collette as mother
- David Thewlis as father
- Guy Boyd as janitor
- Frederick E. Wodin as dancing janitor
- Hadley Robinson as Laurey and Tulsey Town girl 1
- Gus Birney as Aunt Eller and Tulsey Town girl 2
- Abby Quinn as student and Tulsey Town girl 3
- Colby Minifie as Yvonne
- Anthony Grasso as diner manager
- Teddy Coluca as diner customer
- Jason Ralph as Yvonne's boyfriend
- Oliver Platt as the voice
It was announced in January 2018 that Charlie Kaufman was adapting Iain Reid's novel for Netflix, as well as directing. In December, Brie Larson and Jesse Plemons were cast in the film. In March 2019, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis joined the cast, with Buckley replacing Larson.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 82% of 257 critic reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The critics' consensus for the film reads, "Aided by stellar performances from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, I'm Thinking of Ending Things finds writer-director Charlie Kaufman grappling with the human condition as only he can." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100 based on reviews from 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Karen Han of Polygon wrote, "The lack of clear answers and structure can be frustrating, but the strange way the story is told enhances just how real the exchanges between characters feel. The frustration that Lucy feels with Jake, that Jake feels with his mother, that his parents feel for each other, are all uncomfortably tangible, especially as tensions rise. The film's 134-minute runtime is a long time to sit with that feeling, but Kaufman’s big divergence from the novel he's adapting is in lending its ending a more buoyant note." In his review, Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com gave the film 31⁄2 out of 4 stars, calling it "a movie that is undeniably complex in terms of symbolism and a more surreal final act than most people will be expecting". He also praised the cinematography, saying that the film's atmosphere is "amplified by a tight 4:3 aspect ratio courtesy of Łukasz Żal (Cold War) that forces the viewer to pay more attention to what's in frame." The Observer's Wendy Ide wrote, "This is not cinema that leaves you feeling good about things. Nor does it tread a familiar path. But I'm Thinking of Ending Things is one of the most daringly unexpected films of the year, a sinewy, unsettling psychological horror, saturated with a squirming dream logic that tips over into the domain of nightmares."
In a more mixed review, Adam Graham of The Detroit News gave the film a C, calling Plemons's and Buckley's performances excellent but lamenting the plot, writing, "I'm Thinking of Ending Things is an unsolvable riddle where the only answer is mankind's hopelessness, and we've been down this road before." For TIME, Stephanie Zacharek wrote, "For every moment of raw, affecting insight there are zillions of milliseconds of Kaufman's proving what a tortured smartie he is. I'm Thinking of Ending Things must have been arduous to make, and it's excruciatingly tedious to watch."
- The young woman's monologue is taken directly from Pauline Kael's review of the film. A collection of her reviews (For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies) can be seen in Jake's childhood home.
- Reminiscent of "Dream Ballet" performed in Oklahoma!. The ballet features Jake's girlfriend's dancer taking the role of Laurey, Jake's dancer taking the role of Curly, and the janitor's dancer taking the role of Jud.
- The Nobel Prize acceptance speech is taken from John Nash's acceptance speech during the finale of A Beautiful Mind, the DVD of which is seen on the shelf of Jake's childhood bedroom.
- The tune is "Lonely Room".
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