Horror tropes pervade I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Charlie Kaufman’s oddball drama about a girl doubting her relationship, but it can’t be considered a traditional horror. Instead, it turns these tropes inwards, likening a controlling, toxic relationship to an isolated, threatening, haunted house. It’s a fascinating and brilliant idea, but despite the film being well-observed and intriguing, it’s not engaging enough, and offers little opportunity for confident interpretation. Mike has little sympathy for its developing surreality; José wants more humour. Still, it’s an ambitious, interesting film, and worth delving into.
An accomplished film, with good use of long takes that nonetheless feels visually and narratively unsatisfactory. I hated the grey look of the film and how little attention seems to have been paid to the use of colour. Our conversation includes considerations of the compositions and props, including repeated imagery of miniature models of the family’s home, and complaints that it feels that the film’s various patternings don’t add up, or at least we can’t add them up: we feel they’re meant to be expressive but we can’t figure out what layers of expression they might be adding.
The Horror genre has been the most consistent and incisive of genres in critiquing American culture recently but is this a particularly good example of it?. What are these film’s themes and what is it saying? Mike compares it to Kill List, It Follows and we digress onto a discussion of The Exorcist. We wonder if it might be part of the film’s project to go off the rails. If so, it succeed. We both love Toni Collette but we discuss also how in its cruel and brutal treatment and imagery of women there might be a whiff of misogyny, in spite of a potentially feminist slant of Toni Collette’s character voicing things women might feel but are rarely allowed to express. Is it as clever as it thinks it is? What is it about? Mike really likes the way the camera is used, how it frames and re-frames in long-take, how that enables an appreciation of the performances and earns the trust of the viewer. Gabriel Byrne is wasted.
Very funny in spots, now seems more contrived in others. Little Miss Sunshine predates the 2008 financial crash though there is still a mourning for a past ideal of America that the film values, longs for, and represents as now lacking. Steve Carrell is very convincing as the gay brother; the relationship between him and his sister (the marvelous Toni Collette who is wasted but nonetheless very good here) made touching in small details: the holding of hands, the looks. The film is a bit crude; the jokes mostly revolving around pretending to find scandalous and funny what comes out of Alan Arkin’s mouth and what the little girl (Abigail Breslin) does. I found the scenes with the policeman chuckling at the pornography rather forced and somewhat sad. I would say it was an easy indictment of contemporary America except so few films attempt any critique at all that any effort must be appreciated. It was a big box-office hit.