I'm Thinking of Ending Things

I'm Thinking of Ending Things ★★½

You wouldn't think that one could make a career out of incredibly idiosyncratic explorations of extreme subjectivity, but Charlie Kaufman is doing it. His loopy, borderline gimmicky tragicomedies appear on the surface to be vain indulgences in his neuroses, but they're usually just as much interested in immersing viewers in the gap between the way protagonists and antagonists view their world. Wading into this nether territory with Kaufman is never going to be less than interesting—he hasn't written or directed a film yet that's been anything less than fascinating—but that doesn't also mean it's never going to be a test of one's patience, either.

This is definitely the latter. What starts out as a fairly compelling two-hander with the leads bantering on an extended drive interlaced with a surprisingly deft voiceover (voiceovers are _never_ surprisingly deft) eventually becomes standard Kaufman shorthand: dream logic blocking, elliptical editing, jump scare cutaways etc. No one else can do this stuff like Kaufman can and so few even try, so it's somewhat forgivable that little of it rises above the amusing. But the last third, which is by turns reminiscent of Lynch or Godard, feels much less assured as it devolves into a game of semiotic Clue, leaving the viewer to match up wryly dropped hints with narrative twists. Kaufman does not want to explain it all or do all of the expository work for the viewer, which is fair, but I'm not convinced he's fully doing his job as a storyteller, either.

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