In a year when everything is terrible (pandemic, Trump, white nationalists) and nothing is living up to expectations (Bill & Ted 3, Texas weather, book launches), it was surprising to stumble upon a movie that so deeply speaks to the core of who I am: disjointed, loquacious, and completely devoid of meaning. I’m talking, of course, about I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a newly available movie on Netflix based on the book of the same name and directed by Charlie Kaufman. It is, in short, f-ing bananas.
At least, that’s what I told my brother immediately after I finished it.
When the Verastiqui brothers agree a movie is bananas, you can take that to the bank and deposit it into a high yield checking account.
From the moment this movie started, I was confused. Who was that dude in the window? Can Jesse Plemons hear the Young Woman’s thoughts? Why is everything so weird? I knew going into it that Kaufman had also done Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I thought that was the kind of movie I was about to get. Introspective. Playing with memory. Reality not quite what it seems. And maybe that’s what this was, for a little while.
And then they reached his house.
(SPOILERS FROM HERE ON)
Once Jake’s parents showed up, I knew something was very wrong. They looked different than what I’d seen in the trailers, and after their first transformation, I thought I was onto something. Was this some kind of simulation? Was Jake somehow replaying the night in a bid to keep Young Woman from breaking up with him? Like if he changed certain elements of the evening, could he change the outcome?
That’s where my mind stayed for the rest of the movie. I never fully understood what was happening, and after they left his house, I was even more lost. The ice cream shop. The school. None of that made a lick of sense.
Even when it was explained to me, I still don’t really get it. And even if the explanation is true… no, no good.
Still don’t get it.
Fart on a Brick
It has been a few days, and I can already tell you, I love this movie. It was just what this year needed… something artsy and cerebral and completely wacko bananas. Much like 2020, it makes no sense. But unlike 2020, it doesn’t make you hate the world.
The book is available on Amazon. I downloaded a sample the morning after I watched the movie. Once I finished, I went to buy it, but the price had jumped from $8.99 to $11.99. Cashing in on the sudden popularity. Classy move, Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc. I’ll probably still end up buying it, but I won’t be happy about it.
I don’t usually dig first-person books. There are notable exceptions like Altered Carbon or the Night Watch books, but for the most part, I find it tedious to read. I did this. I did that. But there are some people who just do it right, who manage to keep every word interesting. I really admire people who can do that. The book and the movie begin the same way, with a monologue about “ending things.” Jessie Buckley does an incredible job delivering the lines, and hooked me immediately.
Beginning with thoughts of ending. You’re making a promise to the reader and casting a shadow over everything that comes next. It’s the uncertainty… the sword waiting to fall. At its core, it’s immediate conflict, and that’s how you hook people.
I’m thinking of ending things…
When you learn the truth about Jake and the Young Woman (not from the movie itself, because no one ever learned anything from a sack of bananas), it gives the opening line a bit more import.
If they are the same person, then Jesse is also thinking of ending things.
And so is… the janitor?
Who f-ing knows?
All I know is I’m thinking of ending this blog post.
Go watch this movie. Now.