Endings, Beginnings movie review: when it ends is the best part

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Endings Beginnings red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Love this cast, but, my god, I hate these characters. I hate this miserable take on romance, which mistakes wallowing in self-pity for introspection, and people being awful for philosophical depth.
I’m “biast” (pro): love the cast; desperate for movies about women
I’m “biast” (con): hot and cold on Drake Doremus
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, female coscreenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

I love this cast, but, my god, do I hate these characters. My god, do I hate this miserable, morose take on sex, romance, and relationships, which mistakes joyless wallowing in self-pity for introspection, and people being absolute shitberg human beings for philosophical depth.

“I would give anything to understand why I do things sometimes,” moans Daphne (Shailene Woodley: Big Little Lies, Snowden), directionless, clueless 20something Los Angeleno. This is meant to make us empathize with her, and is maybe meant to be a deep examination of, I dunno, modern ennui? I mean, sure, everyone has issues, and pretty much no one knows how to find the right person to while away life with, but Daphne throws away a boyfriend she admits is a great person who loved her deeply and whom she truly cared for in return, for no reason at all, seemingly.

Endings Beginnings Shailene Woodley
I don’t recall any pinball actually in the film — sorry! — but this is one of the official stills.

Except it leaves her open for a scenario that no actual woman I have ever met or even heard rumor of has ever encountered in real life: the simultaneous meeting with two different, allegedly irresistible men that she cannot choose between. (Reminder: this is intended to be a grounded, realistic romantic drama.) After her breakup, Daphne swears off men for six months, in an attempt to “find herself.” (Spoiler: the movie never finds her, either.) Which means, in the demented dynamic that only a ridiculous movie like this can concoct, that she instantly meets — at the same party! — pensive writer Jack (Jamie Dornan: Trolls: World Tour, Robin Hood), for whom Irishness is his most definitive personality trait, and hangdog charmer Frank (Sebastian Stan: Avengers: Endgame, Destroyer), who appears to have no discernible personality at all. They’re both a bit stalkery and demanding, especially of a woman they just met and don’t know, and we’re supposed to find it charming and exciting that she’s torn between these two jerks. Meanwhile, she treats them like dirt, because she’s troubled, or some shit.

I want to make it perfectly clear that this is a movie that, while it may not think so, is about three people who enjoy the temporary thrill of hooking up with strangers, perhaps morphing into a slightly longer-term pleasure of pretending that the person you’re involved with doesn’t fart or floss their teeth, but who then balk at the prospect of confronting the reality that eventually, authentic relationships can happen only with people whom you are able to acknowledge are flesh-and-blood real. The movie thinks this is tragic in a way that will make us care. The solution for this, at least for Daphne, is horrifying, all the more so for how the movie does not realize it.

Endings Beginnings Jamie Dornan Shailene Woodley
“Did I mention I require all my girlfriends to sign a nondisclosure agreement? You’re cool with that, right?”

But hey! Director Drake Doremus (Breathe In, Like Crazy) maybe hopes we won’t notice what an awful, spoiled brat Daphne is by keeping the camera tight on her face, ensuring that we exist in her egocentric cocoon and never glimpse the certain side-eyes she’s getting from those around her. (Does Doremus criminally waste Kyra Sedgwick [Submission, The Edge of Seventeen] as the one pal who dares to give Daphne the slightest of smacks? Yes, he does.) Doremus maybe hopes that having a woman — Jardine Libaire — as a coscreenwriter might deflect criticisms that Endings, Beginnings is a male fantasy about a young woman in distress, whose traumas are depressingly tedious and predictable and good for nothing but ensuring that she is up to bang any guy who shows an interest in her, if only for a little while.

Worse still, this movie hasn’t the least bit of interest in indulging some female gazing on either Stan or Dornan, whom Daphne is supposed to be urgently and inescapably taken with. The sex scenes are more interested in male-gazing at her, at her body and her reactions. Men need to stop making movies about women unless they themselves can even begin to empathize with women.

Endings, Beginnings is a movie about selfish, self-involved people who don’t appear to have any true consideration for others. Of course the world is full of people like this. But I don’t want to spend time with them in real life, and I definitely don’t want to spend two precious movies hours with them, either.

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