Stuck in the middle of ‘Endings, Beginnings’

by Joe Jarosz on April 16, 2020

in Print Reviews,Reviews

Endings, Beginnings stars Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan, and Sebastian Stan

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

Ten years ago, I would’ve rushed to my local indie theater to see director Drake DoremusEndings, Beginnings. Sticky floors. Taped up chairs. Burnt popcorn. Local ads running, then two trailers and the movie starts. Indie music playlist. An actress familiar with arthouse films. Artsy cutaways and scenes with dialogue dubbed over images of clearly nobody talking. Would’ve been the highlight of my weekend.

I would’ve found some redeeming qualities to talk to my friends about. But for where I am in my life now, the slow-paced dialogue and lack of character development did nothing for me. I was bored and uninterested in the love triangle between the three main characters.

Also, I’m apparently at an age where sex scenes annoy me now if they’re done in a way to sexually exploit the woman and not the man. I never thought I’d reach that level of maturity and growth.

Daphne (Shailene Woodley), a thirty-something woman, starts a new year with the intention of dropping alcohol and men from her life. She’s coming off a bad break-up and the loss of a job, so she wants to start fresh. However, at a New Year’s Eve party hosted by her sister Billie (Lindsay Sloane), Daphne meets two guys, Jack (Jamie Dornan) and Frank (Sebastian Stan). The two friends are polar opposites…how shocking!

Frank represents Daphne’s past. He’s sly and smarmy, drinks whenever he wants and has a loose idea on how his future is planned. Jack, on the other hand, represents what Daphne wants to be, a smart, determined person with a plan for their career and life. Frank and Jack have a unique friendship. We don’t see them together much in this movie, but get the impression that they’re only friends because they maybe don’t have a lot of other people in their lives and don’t want to lose one more person.

Everyone is too intentionally vague and guarded and it’s tough to become invested in anyone in less than the two hour runtime when the characters are like that. When the third act hit and shit started dropping, I felt nothing. And that’s unfortunate because we’ve seen the three leads – Woodley, Stan and Dornan – demonstrate emotional depth in previous roles.

The film also leans too heavily on music, which I’m surprised I’m saying because I love music. The soundtracks to Garden State and 500 Days of Summer are some of my favorite collections of songs. But, in Endings, Beginnings, the score and song selection make it obvious that the script was never trusted and given much attention. Create captivating dialogue to lure people in, not songs from Beach House or Wilco.

There are better coming of age movies and there are worse. This is a cookie-cutter version of this genre. It’s exactly in the middle. Woodley does the most she can with the material given. She’s convincing as a young 30-something who doesn’t know what she wants next in life. Does she embrace her past or finally taken that first step toward independence that’s alluded her for most of her adult life? By the end, I didn’t care. Hopefully she embraces a better role next time I see her.

Watch Endings, Beginnings on digital starting Friday, April 17, and on demand Friday, May 1.

Joe Jarosz is a Midwest boy living in California. As much as he likes to think he has an edge, he’s quick to cry at the latest animated movie he takes his kid to see.

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