I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Charlie Kaufman [4/10]

My anticipation for “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” Charlie Kaufman’s latest enigmatic offering, was intense, and I quickly sank into his tale of a young woman (wonderfully, suitably enigmatically played by Jessie Buckley) accompanying her kind-of, barely-got-to-know boyfriend (another fine performance from an unlikely actor, Jessie Plemons) to his parents’ out-of-the-way farm. There, some strange, semi-frightening episodes occur with the mother and father, exuberantly dished out by Toni Collette and David Thewlis, and we know we’re in a the middle of a Kaufman wonderment and need to “figure this out” even while we’re entranced by the weirdness. And I realized just why the trailer focuses so much on that first third or half, because after the farm scenes, the movie spirals quickly (amazingly quickly, actually) into incomprehensible tedium. Long scenes in the snowed-under car, a strange school, new weird characters … all the while cutting back and forth to a shuffling old janitor. The end, when it comes, is bafflement ultra, and most welcome that ending is. Afterwards I Googled, as one does, and sorted out what I’m Thinking of Ending Things is meant to portray, based on what sounds like a weird but spectacular, immersive novel, but heck, a movie based on a book is not intended to come with the rider, “read the book first.” This time, Kaufman’s narrative skills have deserted him. Cryptic sludge probably only suitable for Kaufman completists.

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