I'm Thinking of Ending Things

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Kaufman ultimately showing that acts of self-reference are not enough if you do nothing with them. The direct callbacks to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York mean nothing if Kaufman himself is not coming to terms with them. What starts out as an interesting exploration of how even the smallest choices affect our personal relationships becomes an image of a not very nice man who has invented a girlfriend for himself. Except, of course, Kaufman is all too aware that this is the case, so what does he do with that? Well, nothing at all. He comes to admit at the end that it basically is about how he might view himself, Charlie Kaufman, but again, a journey into Kaufman's own self-loathing isn't a worthwhile film if that is all it is. I'm Thinking of Ending Things is admitting that we might be the type of man who defends David Foster Wallce despite his horrible crimes and explains the plot of Kavan's Ice to our girlfriends because we think of ourselves as oh so interesting, but not coming to terms with it any more than that.

No-one ever really becomes a character, which is not to say that the performances are bad. Buckley, Plemons, Thewlis, and Collette are all excellent but to no real end. Buckley inhabits the role of the thought experiment, her inner monologue driving the early parts of the film excellently. When it becomes clear that she is as conceited as Plemons, there is a whiff of intrigue, until the walls of the film collapse in the film's second half, and both Plemons, and by extension Kaufman, have to treat her as if she is a person. Again though, because Kaufman's thesis statement doesn't go beyond "I do be like this sometimes thoooooooo" it elicits a shrug, a disbelieving look to my viewing companions, and an exasperated "So what, Charlie Kaufman?" A film being little more than an oneiric set of symbols illustrating, but not lampooning the type of man who pretends to care about women's rights until someone talks shit about Infinite Jest does not justify its existence.

So beyond thinking I'm Thinking of Ending Things makes for unpleasant viewing, which needn't be wholly negative in and of itself, I think it is an infuriating act of self-indulgence that points its hands to Kaufman's own problems with his films in the past, but with an attitude that simply replicating those problems knowingly is enough to make a salient point about them.

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