I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS – movie review

I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
Netflix
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Writer: Charlie Kaufman, Iain Reid, based on Iain Reid’s book of the same title.
Cast: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, David Thewlis, Guy Boyd, Hadley Robinson
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 12/9/20
Opens: September 4, 2020

A surreal film associated with Charlie Kaufman’s wild imagination comes from a director whose “Anomalisa” hones in on a man who cannot continue tolerating his mundane life, whose “Synecdoche New York” find a man’s creating a life-size warehouse of New York City, and whose script for “Being John Malkovich” lauds a puppeteer who finds a portal leading into the head of the title actor. All are works of a fervent imagination, but perhaps no other film of his has issued such a large amount of moviegoer puzzlement than “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.”

With that as the case, here is a disclaimer. This is my interpretation, one that may be attacked by critics and normal people as too easy; that Kaufman must be traveling a larger road.

Here is a way to think about the picture. Many say that folks on their deathbeds asked for their regrets will never say “I wish I had more time to spend in the office.” Real regrets are far more serious, as illustrated by this film. Here, an elderly janitor (Guy Boyd), a man who is surprisingly well read for someone in his low-skilled trade, may be facing his mortality. He puts down the mop, casts aside the pail, and, being the only character in the hallway of a large high school, he has the time to reflect.

Some of his regrets may be strictly a segment of his imagination. I believe that, allowing for some embellishment, his thoughts run to actual events in his life, something like those of Guido Anselme in Federico’s 1963 classic “8 ½” who retreats into his memories and fantasies. In his younger days he probably dated a number of women, all of whom congeal into the shape of Lucy (Jessie Buckley), or Lucia, or Young Woman. To prove that she is a composite, she is introduced as a painter, a poet, a physicist. The janitor, now in the guise of young Jake (Jesse Plemons), is driving his girlfriend Lucy to the farmhouse of his parents, Mother (Toni Collette) and Father (David Thewlis). It’s a long drive, it’s snowing heavily, the wind is biting. It’s the kind of night that may be part of Jake’s imagination, because what woman is willing to take her chances in such inclement weather when the trip could have been set for another day? What’s more, this may be the last time Lucy sees Jake, her boyfriend for only a few weeks, though he is a man who is mostly self-educated as shown by the books and movies in his childhood room. He is able to discuss Wordsworth and analyze any 19th century poem.

She is smart and well educated, able to respond to him. You might think, then, that they would wind up marrying but though Lucy sees Jake properly as an intelligent person, a nice guy, he is stiff, a bore, a man who probably could not see himself laughing out loud at a joke or telling one himself. Furthermore Jake’s folks are a bizarre couple. Mother laughs too loud and too long. Lucy reports that “Jake told me a lot about you.” She replies, “And you’re willing to come anyway Ha ha ha ha!” Father takes a lesser role in the conversations but like Mother, he disappears into old age and back again, while Mother in one scene is on her bed, wrinkled, taking her last breaths or already dead.

Since much of the movie is a road trip filled with both high-level and vapid conversation, we get to meet three women tending an ice cream bar, two bimbos and one who advises Lucy to “go forward.” In a scene near the conclusion, Jake is thanking everyone in a theater audience for being part of his life, including Lucy, above all, who now appears decades older, and even the bimbos from the ice cream shop are in attendance.

Some moviegoers might say, if this is a dream, I can tell you a weird one I had myself last night. But though fantasies hover around the truths, these are actual people in his life, important ones, also those he conversed with for only minutes. However, what makes “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” on a quality level of classics like “8 1/2” aside from the script, the prescient editing, the spot-on direction, is the performance of Jessie Buckley, who dazzles throughout. She has wowed the movie audience playing Queen Victoria with authenticity in Stephen Gaghan’s “Doolittle,” a troubled woman controlled by her family while at the same time fascinated by a man who could be a killer in Michael Pearce’s “Beast,” and a major role in Rupert Goold’s “Judy.” Her dynamic range includes song, as shown in Tom Harper’s “Wild Rose,” as a Glaswegian dreaming of becoming a country music star in Nashville.

With such talent all around, it’s no wonder that “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is my choice, so far, as best movie of the year, with Buckley as best actress.

134 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – A
Technical – B+
Overall – A

DOUBLE LOVER – movie review

DOUBLE LOVER (L’amant double)

Cohen Media Group
Director:  François Ozon
Screenwriter:  François Ozon, loosely based on Joyce Carol Oates’ “Lives of the Twins”
Cast:  Marine Vacth, Jéremié Renier, Jacqueline Bisset, Myriam Boyer, Dominique Reymond
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 1/10/18
Opens: February 14, 2018
L'amant double Movie Poster
In middle-class households, the favorite question that family friends and relatives ask of children is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  In the early years, fireman, policeman, astronaut.  Later on events occur in youthful lives that coax them into becoming neurologists (they had a history of headaches), optometrists (they wore glasses from age 5), and best of all, psychiatrists (they have a history of emotional problems).  In fact it’s sometimes said that psychoanalysts are more disturbed than their patients, and this is the likely reason.

“Double Lover,” based loosely on Joyce Carol Oats’ erotic thriller “Lives of the Twins,’ is about two such psychotherapists, twin brothers, in fact, who ply their trade with radically different ideologies.  One is the mild-mannered Paul Meyer (Jérémie Renner); the other a wacko!  Rougher, Paul’s more physically direct twin Louis Delord (Jérémie Renner again!—but forget that there’s any symbolism in the latter’s name though patients often make the mistake of thinking that their shrinks are gods.)

Paris-born writer-director François Ozon is well known among cineastes for “8 Women,” about the search by these folks for a murderer among them, an Agatha-Christie style movie quite a bit tamer than his current work.  In fact this time Ozon wants to break through his typical fare, much as the principal character of “Double Lover” seeks to punch through her obsessions and repressions.  At the same time Ozon is having fun with the cineastes, challenging them to recall movies with similar themes such as “Rosemary’s Baby” (some bizarre neighbors seem to have plans for the upcoming infant), “Dead Ringers” (twin gynecologists have run challenging women to guess who’s who), and even “50 Shades of Gray” (a co-ed gets more than she bargained for with her new boss).

Here’s the thing about “Double Love.”  It’s probably as incoherent and unrealistic as the Oates novel from which is loosely adapted. But it makes the audience work to deconstruct the plot, wondering how many of the principal character’s fantasies are real.  And it’s filled with style, style, style; and when a film succeeds in doing what movies can do best, which is to avoid telling a story in too literal a way, we’ve got to allow the director to afford the filmmaker a loose leash over the material.

Ozon’s focus is on Chloé (Marine Vacth), done with her modeling career, shown in dramatic closeup getting her locks cut and transforming her into a pixie-like beauty.  She goes to doctors complaining about stomach pains—somehow the physicians neglect to give her an ultrasound or CT-scan—and is told what all of us would-be patients hate to hear: “It’s all in your head.”  She nods, agreeing to see Dr. Paul Meyer (Jérémie Renner), a psychiatrist, the sort who frustrates patients by talking little, not even the traditional “How does it make you feel?”  When Meyer falls in love with her, he is ethical: he wants to refer her to another, ending his therapy.  With this therapy over, they discover mutual attraction: she moves with her cat Milo into his spacious Paris apartment.

The piece de résistance: she discovers an old passport with his picture but with a different name: Delord.  As a museum attendant, a hideously dull job for a pretty, educated woman, she has time to look up Louis Delord, discovering that he is Paul’s identical twin, born 15 minutes after Meyer.  She soon finds that Delord’s methodology is quite different from Meyer’s.  Whereas Meyer ethically stopped therapy because of his attraction, Delord uses the attraction to engage in rough sex with Chloé, who is at first repelled, then returning, obsessed.

Some plot details are one thing, but like reading classic comics and thinking that you know all there is to know about “War and Peace,” you may find that plot takes a backstage turn in favor of Ozon’s stylistic agenda.  With the first analyst, she sits facing him.  In the next shot, they’re inches apart as though about to kiss.  Then she looks at the two in the mirror.  At one point she is having sex with both psychoanalysts at once—or is she?  The threesome becomes a foursome, as she miraculously doubles (but you already knew that this would happen from the movie’s title).  In one of the most intimate shots you see in movies, Ozon takes a few seconds to show the ululations of the vagina in orgasm, and in stark closeup.

You’d think that Ozon prides himself in being able to write about women, one of the many male fantasies such as that skill actually possessed by Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin Udall in James L. Brooks’ “As Good as it Gets.” Ozon also re-introduces one of his favorite motifs, the impossibility of knowing someone else no matter how intimate you may be with that person. (In fact the real problem is our inability to know much about ourselves, which drives us into psychotherapy.)

The director is more playful now than he was in his more serious, classic films like “Under the Sand,” “Frantz,” and “Criminal Lovers.”  Now in his 51st year, having used his skills and art to make forty films, he’s entitled to have fun, n’est-ce pas?

Unrated.  107 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story –  B
Acting –  B
Technical – A-
Overall – B+