I'm Thinking of Ending Things - Charlie Kaufman

New movie is now available on netflix. It’s based on a book but still distinctly Kaufman. It stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Colette, and David Thewlis. I really enjoyed it but looking at reviews I missed quite a bit and now I feel dumb. I guess it’s a good thing if you don’t fully understand a movie and still enjoy it. More to discover on the next watch.

Thanks for the call out, had no idea this was coming out on netflix. Always find his stuff interesting.

TRUE STATEMENT! There are certain screenwriters and directors whose work almost requires sitting down and watching it as preparation for watching it again with full understanding. Sometimes you need to know the destination in advance so you don’t get lost on the journey.

Looking forward to this!

(But I’m still not too fond of the relatively fanfare-less modern experience of, “Oh, it’s on netflix now? Guess I’ll watch it… eventually.”)

Which reviews? I just watched it based on nothing but this thread, and I always like feeling dumb.

This review by a guy who read the book was pretty good.
Basically, Jake is the janitor, the young woman was a figment of his imagination (her thoughts on A Woman Under the Influence are directly from Pauline Kael’s review), and he kills himself at the end. (Although the last one seems more ambiguous in the film)

Much more ambiguous. I figured most of it out about fifteen minutes into the movie, which made the rest of it land a little awkwardly for me. It was fine, but not really up to Kaufman’s other stuff (I still feel like Adaptation is maybe the most brilliant premise in movie history). Very well acted on all sides, though!

I have never read that review, but I assumed this based on my reading of the film to that point and the fact that a Pauline Kael book figured prominently in a shot of stuff in Jake’s bedroom.

Given the premise, the fact that she is the viewpoint character and seems to be both aware that something is amiss but unable to play her part well in the whole thing is odd. Might be a sign of Jake’s deteriorating mental state? I guess I should read the linked review now!

(having not yet read the review)

Although the ending is somewhat ambiguous (in the Hollywood tradition), the title of the film is, of course, suggestive. The beginning of the movie goes to some lengths to put you on a different trail, but I know what I first thought of just from the title alone.

Midway through the dinner my girlfriend compared it to a Pinter play, which I thought was pretty apt. But it turns out there’s kind of a reason for that.

Edit: oh, and directed by Robert Zemeckis made me laugh out loud. Actually I laughed a few times!

Edit 2: Ok, I read the review. I haven’t read the book at all, although now I kind of want to. When the reviewer says the dance in the school is, “the way he imagines his own demise,” I think it would be more accurate to say that it’s the way he imagines he already was killed. My read on the story is that Jake was kept close to home by his parents’ failing health (or that was at least the excuse he gave himself) and thus never got to live the sort of life he feels he should have lived, so the dance is the janitor he is killing the young and in love man he could have been.

This movies is freaky… its unsettling… even after learning the twists. I watched this expecting Kaufmanesque whining and humor, its closer to a David Lynch movie w/out an out (Lynch sometimes is oddly uplifting). The shooting of this movie is closer to a paranormal horror movie. There’s philosophical juxtopositions… of death and fear of loneliness, insanity… its cosmic creepy. There’s also shots of the house and the parents… eh dont want to ruin it… but its DEFINTELY worth a watch. This and Host are REALLY good movies watched recently.

This is one of the few times I don’t think a comparison to Lynch is totally off base! It does bear some fairly strong similarities to Mulholland Drive in particular, although it’s much more straightforward than basically any Lynch (and there’s nothing really odd about his work being uplifting if you’ve ever heard him speak on the subject).

I really loved this, though it’s one of those that it’s taken me a few days to get there with. Even knowing from the outset that this was not going to be a literal narrative it was pretty bewildering to try and figure out who these characters were supposed to be, but also whose viewpoint we were seeing this from.

I see the comparison with Lynch and his fascination with shifting identity (in this case, mostly Lucy’s). I’m not sure it totally compares, though, since by the end I think it’s pretty clear where this story is coming from and under what circumstance, where Lynch rarely bothers to explain his movies.

The effect of the whole piece is very disorienting though. I’m looking forward to seeing it again, having thought it over for a few days.

Iain Reid’s book was much more effective at being psychological horror while simultaneously being much more tightly woven and direct.

I enjoyed this movie (I didn’t realize it was an adaptation until about halfway through), and it is a very different beast from the novel, but I found myself really disliking the changes by the end.
It took a very sharply written story and bloated it with a lot of ambiguity and provocative imagery, with little gained for the effort outside of replicating the disorientation the book provides from its structure.

I would say that replicating that disorientation would be about the best thing they could achieve, and imagery, etc. are the reason to make movies instead of books.

I agree, in fact I’d say that is why the first leg of this movie is so stunning. Where it is less effective is concentrated in the back half, and it’s long-winded surrealism wasn’t worth undercutting the well-defined climax and conclusion of the novel.

I would have to read the novel before I could really opine, but I guess you don’t agree with the interviewer linked above who thinks the latter bits of the novel would have been either unfilmable or boring if filmed as written?

I really disliked this as I was watching it. Just a really uncomfortable experience, and I could feel every minute of the two-hour-plus running time. So when the credits rolled, I had the same feeling of relief I have after sitting through a long boring bad movie. It wasn’t until after a recovery period that I appreciated it. And now, lo and behold, I think I loved it! I’ll have to rewatch to verify.

Can you tell us a bit about how the end of the book was different from the end of the movie? I’d love to hear more.


I do disagree, the second half of the novel reads much more like a typical slasher horror movie with the janitor stalking the woman and doesn’t come off as particularly unfilmable. The moments I would have described as “unfilmable” before watching the movie would have be the main character’s internal monologue and the dinner, but those ended up being the parts that were adapted in a way that hewed very closely to the source material.

A quick synopsis of the ending as I remember it:
The book is about 150 pages. The first 100 pages is the drive, dinner, and return drive. In the last 50 pages or so the book is most different from the movie. From the entering of the high school, there is a cat and mouse between the janitor and the woman, the revelation that Jake is the janitor, and the woman is a creation of his imagination of what she would have been like, had he pursued her in reality. The janitor then completes reflecting on his life and his will to endure, touching on many ideas explored symbolically in the movie. He likens himself to the pig and the meditates on the what his answer to the one question is. He despairs, resolving to and committing a brutal suicide in the school.

I like the movie’s more wistful treatment. What, after all, is the point of stalking a figment of your own imagination?

I think the movie was not that great, but I’m sure I’ll remember it for a long time anyway.

Just like @Kolbex said, it’s basically a movie about what you think it’s going to be about. And yeah, it’s Charlie Kaufman’s dour version of Mulholland Drive. It’s a very similar plot and has all the same elements, especially the mysterious side scenes that you know are going to have a lot more to do with reality than the main plot.

I usually like to say that it’s not important in a movie if “you saw the twist coming or not”. Since the Sixth Sense, there’s no prize for figuring out the twist anymore: it’s the journey that matters. Even then, I thought the twist was a little bit disappointing.

So what about the journey then? Just like @tomchick, I thought the movie “felt” long, but eventually I did get in the appropriate “trance” state. I have to say I love car dialogue scenes. You know the kind: when the characters are driving in heavy rain or snow in the middle of nowhere. The car is a bubble in space and time. The characters wax poetic. Some of that was good here, but a lot of it felt flat or was just plain cringey. Most of the dialogue felt both too mumblecore and too highbrow at the same time, somehow. It’s not that fun a movie to sit through. I pity those re-watching the movie and going though the dinner scene a second time.

IMO, I thought the best scene in the entire movie was the closeup shots of the flower wallpaper right at the beginning, especially that one with three corners meeting at an angle on the roof, y’know? That’s got to be hard to put on without making creases, right? I spent many nights lying in bed at my grandparents’ farmhouse watching a similar crease. There’s something sad about flower wallpaper… even though I’m sure they put those shots in the movie because it’s now hip in a kitsch sense or something. Wallpaper is sad because who in their right minds puts up flower wallpaper anymore? I’m sure it was put there with pride once, but any room with such wallpaper has clearly been left behind by time. A relic. Then again, if you’re in such a room, what does that say about you? Wouldn’t you say that fits the movie’s themes?

So yeah, there you go: average movie, great wallpaper shots!

I didn’t really enjoy this, which surprised me as ive enjoyed all other kaufman movies I’ve watched. It is a depressing movie, makes me sad about aging, and while I am not inherently against depressing movies I didn’t feel there was much of a payoff. To others it might be an insightful treatment of the human condition, but not to me anyway.

Kind of the opposite experience for me. I actually enjoyed watching it, even laughed out loud a few times–the dinner party was so believably uncomfortable you had to laugh. And dear god Jessie Buckley better get Oscar consideration for the part.

But once the credits rolled I hated it. The film is annoyingly self-referential. Lucy’s Pauline Kael diatribe about A Woman Under the Influence and the Dean Martin conversation. You don’t get to wink at the audience that way; it’s fucking lazy film writing. You don’t get to erase the mother and excuse it by having characters talk about how it’s a trope. And the Nash speech at the end? Dear god why?

And why the 4:3 ratio?

Anyway, I’m not sad I watched it, if only for Buckley’s performance, but it’s The Beginner’s Guide (a game I hate for similar reasons) of movies for me.