Endings, Beginnings

Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

Endings, Beginnings
dir Drake Doremus
scr Jardine Libaire, Drake Doremus
prd Francis Chung, Robert George, Drake Doremus
with Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan, Sebastian Stan, Matthew Gray Gubler, Lindsay Sloane, Wendie Malick, Kyra Sedgwick, Shamier Anderson, Lawrence Rothman, Sherry Cola, Janice LeAnn Brown, James Trussart
release US 17.Aug.20
19/US 1h50

dornan gubler sedgwick

woodley and stan
Loose and improvisational, this romantic drama swirls through beautiful, moody imagery to create a hazy picture rather than a clear narrative. Natural performances make it engaging, even if the film's overall tone is a bit sad and mopey as it follows a young woman over a momentous year. And many of the plot points feel far too on the nose for a movie as open-handed as this seems to be.
After breaking up with Adrian (Gubler), Daphne (Woodley) quits her job and moves into her sister Billie's (Sloane) poolhouse to regroup. Her cynicism about long-term romance is only cemented by Billie's rocky marriage. And then at a party she finds herself strongly attracted to two very different guys: Jack (Dornan) is smart and sensitive, while Frank (Stan) is unpredictable and a little dangerous. Over the following months, she sees both of them, enjoying how each brings out a different side of her. The problem is that Frank and Jack are friends.
The dialog has a rambling, realistic quality to it, revealing the characters' inner lives through random conversations. Key information emerges here and there, such as the fact that Daphne's dad had a secret second family. Or the hint that a fling with her boss led Daphne to ditch her job and Adrian, whom worries might have been the right guy for her. So a karaoke rendition of Losing My Religion is far too obvious, beautiful as it is. It's grating that director-cowriter Doremus feels the need to preach.

Otherwise, the free-form filmmaking offers performances that have an engagingly unstructured flow, as the actors rarely seem to be acting at all. Woodley inhabits Daphne, letting conflicting emotions mingle in her interaction with the other characters. Her journey is believable, especially the aspects that are refreshingly unfinished. Both Dornan and Stan have strong characters of their own. Frank may be the bad boy, but each is hapless in his own way.

For a story told from a woman's perspective, the film has a naggingly male gaze, as Doremus objectifies Woodley with the camera. But it's easy to see what Daphne sees in each man, and that each offers a different kind of passion. The problem is that it's obvious neither is quite right for her, so it's impossible to root for her to choose one of them. And finally the heightened melodrama of the story's extended conclusion feels contrived, especially with its collection of too-convenient plot points.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 23.Apr.20

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