[Screen It]


(2020) (Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons) (R)

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Drama: A young woman accompanies her new boyfriend to meet his parents despite already contemplating breaking off the relationship with him.

Jake (JESSE PLEMONS) and his girlfriend of around seven weeks -- called several names but listed in the credits as Young Woman (JESSIE BUCKLEY) -- are heading toward his parents' remote farmhouse where she's to meet them for the first time and have dinner. It's intended to be just a quick, one-day trip, but the weather is getting bad and there's just something a bit off with Jake's mom (TONI COLLETTE) and his dad (DAVID THEWLIS), along with his relationship with them.

The Young Woman tries to be a good sport and just roll with the punches, but as we see cutaways to an older Janitor (GUY BOYD) working in a high school, things get progressively stranger, including the Young Woman's name and occupation repeatedly changing, as do the ages of Jake's parents. As she contemplates her relationship with him as well as life in general, it becomes increasingly clear that reality keeps changing.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

With this week's release of Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated and muscular "Tenet," much has been made -- including by yours truly -- of just how confusing the James Bond meets The Time Machine plot gets, what with the time travel, characters and objects that move in reverse, and people and events folding back onto themselves.

Yes, it truly needs more than one viewing to get a full grasp of what's really happening. But it comes off like a straightforward, easy to follow Merchant-Ivory costume drama when compared to "I'm Thinking of Ending Things."

Granted, I've only once seen this latest offering from director Charlie Kaufman -- he of mind-bending offerings such as "Adaptation," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Being John Malkovich" among others -- but I'm not completely sure that another viewing -- or ten, fifty or a hundred -- could bring complete clarity to all that occurs and what everything means.

It's based on Iain Reed's 2016 novel of the same name that I have not read, although I did peruse the Wiki entry and am now familiar with its plot. Kaufman -- who also wrote the screenplay adaptation from which he works -- veers away from how that novel ultimately plays out, so even fans of that work might end up confused by the time the end credits roll here.

Weird, wonderful, moving, frustrating, poetic, perplexing and at times goosebump-inducing in terms of creepiness, the film seems to be an exploration of the human condition as filtered through a "meet the parents" road trip plot.

When we first meet our presumed protagonist (Jessie Buckley) who ends up being called different names with different vocations, she's waiting for her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) of around two months to pick her up. Despite the seemingly significant journey to visit her significant other's parental units, she's thinking of calling off the relationship, hence the title, although the related suicidal elements are always lurking about the story.

Once they arrive at his parents' remote farmhouse in the middle of a snowstorm, rather than take her inside, they instead take a tour of the surroundings featuring some harsh realities of farm life. But they eventually go in where it takes a long time for his mom (Toni Collette) and dad (David Thewlis) to come downstairs, and once they do, things feel off in how they behave and interact with their son and his new girlfriend.

Without going into further plot details -- beyond some occasional cutaways to an old janitor (Guy Boyd) working alone at a high school -- let's just say things progressively get weirder and stranger until a certain surrealism engulfs everything. Some viewers will find the offering to be profound, others will find it to be pretentious, and everyone else will simply be confused.

If anything, though, it's highly unlikely anyone will be bored simply because it's so weird and constantly shifting that the mystery of trying to understand what's truly going on will hold one's interest.

Personally, I found it got too out of hand by the end of the third act and would have preferred Kaufman to dive more fully and deeply into the haunting creepiness that rides just beneath the surface for much of the film and occasionally surfaces in full force to the point that I literally got goosebumps.

Since many people end up haunted in one way or another by being human and everything that entails, I think that would have been a perfect fit and would have allowed the movie to operate on the surface as a horror flick with lots and lots of lots of subtext for those looking for extra layers of philosophical sophistication.

As it stands, it's still decent, and maybe after another viewing or two or ten, I might better understand what Kaufman is after. Until then, I might just go back and watch "Tenet" for an easy to follow palate cleanser. Likely to rumble around in my head for some time, "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed September 1, 2020 / Posted September 4, 2020

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