I'm Thinking of Ending Things

I'm Thinking of Ending Things ★★★★½

The reason I think The Room is so enduring as a cinematic novelty is that it almost feels like a real movie. The actors are mostly kind of attractive or almost attractive, they deliver lines that almost sound like someone read them before greenlighting, on sets that almost look like they weren't funded by the Polish mafia. What makes the movie stand out from everything else, what makes every David Lynch film almost pale in comparison, is that guy. That one guy, the hulking, lanky, aquiline Eastern European man who eats away all the scenery because, like someone you don't remember inviting to your college keg party, who is he and why is he here?

It is inherently interesting to watch attractive people suffer in movies in part because it's inherently interesting to watch attractive people do anything and it always raises the stakes, but there's also the sense that they are only pretending, that it's artifice. Even if they suffered like the rest of us, that at least they are attractive and so will never know how it feels to be completely miserable but also unlovable, ugly inside and out. The Room is different not just because Tommy Wiseau is unattractive but because he isn't acting, because he can't act, and everyone knows this, and you are witnessing him grapple with it. Such a film could only be one thing: hilarious, and not tragic or darkly comedic like films where pretty people suffer and die.

Regardless of how attractive one finds Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons to be in real life or press photos, the characters they play here are distinctly and magnificently average in appearance, because they are lit that way but mostly because of how they behave: they act and express with ugly emotions and intonate ugly observations. There is no idealization of suffering here like there is in 20th century film, it's all just awkward and hideous. I'm Thinking of Ending Things because, like most anyone whose relationship started on a dating app or in their mid-30s, why am I even with this guy? Where did things go so wrong? Why is this even a movie? The characters can only talk about their 4:3 cage while barely aware of it, but they do so in the language of every academic jargon, from biology to physics to film criticism, when all we want for them to do is to just end it pretty please.

Synecdoche, New York failed for me because, in the vein of Birdman, it wanted you to empathize with Caden and pity his mediocrity as a father and artist, where I'm Thinking of Ending Things never invites anything but mild disgust and discomfiture, until the film self-destructs in its final act because there was nowhere else for it to go and still retain integrity. This film is for me much closer to Todd Solondz's artistic telos, to ironically reframe Hollywood's pity fetish to those least deserving of it, and so prove its falsity as a virtue, being that it only cloaks narcissism. In the final analysis it's not only the best Netflix film, but it's the only Netflix film, because despite whatever attractive popular people like David Ehlrich or brat pitt who take its nihilism at face value might say, it's the only film that shows what happens when you pull back the curtain on the entire population of people who go to Netflix for comfort: the complete cultural, spiritual and ideological implosion of a century-old cinematic tradition. Hello based department?

Spoilers:

Edit: People have been quick to point out that the unnamed woman in this film is trapped in the man's fantasy, but what about the fantasy the man is trapped inside? And the room the viewer is captive inside, who fantasized that? I'd hesitate to privilege any level of reality over another here, it's all recursive.

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