Perspective is everything, sometimes. When I read a description of the beginning of the new film Endings, Beginnings, from director/co-writer Drake Doremus (Like Crazy), it said something about the L.A.-based lead character Daphne (Shailene Woodley) “reeling from a bad recent break-up.” Except that when I actually sat down to watch the film, it’s Daphne who not only instigates the break-up but does so with a guy whom she fully admits was probably “the one.” But because she’s a restless spirit, afraid of getting stuck in a predictable adult rut (she’s meant to be in her early 30s, in case you were wondering) with this man, she not only left him behind but her entire life, too. She quits her job, moves out of their home together, and moves into the pool house of her sister Billie’s (Lindsay Sloane) family, with no warning to anyone.
Before we really understand the more detailed reasons for her leaving, she’s looking for a new job in the “art world” and having no luck, in part because of her abrupt departure from her previous, very stable job. And I’m guessing that many of those watching Daphne and her predicament are going to have a genuinely difficult time feeling any type of sympathy for her situation, or see anything that happens to her next be anything more than a continuation in her series of bad life decisions. And by the time we get even an inkling of what sparked her wanting to get away from one part of her previous life, too much has happened for us to see her as much more than a destructive force in the lives of anyone who counts on her or who she has allowed to get close to her.
The newer troubles begin when she goes to a party where she meets two men—the writer Jack (Jamie Dornan, severely tamed since his 50 Shades of Gray days) and Frank (Sebastian Stan, the Winter Soldier in a number of Marvel movies), whose occupation is a little fuzzier and ultimately inconsequential. She initially is drawn to Jack, but upon running into Frank sometime later, she ends up sleeping with him as well, not knowing that the two men are actually best friends. She claims she doesn’t want to become a wedge between them, so she settles down a bit with Jack, and Frank seems okay with that for a time…until Jack goes out of town for work, leaving the perpetually self-absorbed Daphne with no choice but to run off to Big Sur with his friend. Her life is so difficult, I could puke.
Buried deep in all of this relationship muck are discussions Daphne has with various people about finding herself and unlocking parts of her life that were previously bolted shut, I guess? But it’s all such vague nonsense right out of a hipster romance novel that it becomes frustrating—it’s clear that everything about this movie would be so much easier to cope with if every character in it wasn’t an asshole. The one woman she tells everything to, a friend played by Kyra Sedgwick, seems to be the only one who’s giving her any rational advice, which is to figure out her own mind before jumping back into another relationship. Bu the heart wants what it wants, apparently, and what it wants is two dudes.
The third-act revelation should come as no surprise to those who know how movies about reinventing yourself often turn out. Not to mention that the entire film is basically a countdown clock to Jack finding out that Daphne is sometimes cheating on him. When I read somewhere that the entire film is meant to take place over the course of the year, I was shocked since it feels like it spans an eternity. But it is impressive that one person can make so many dumb decisions in such a short time period. The film’s messages about growing into the person you were fated to become evaporate as soon as you try to grasp them, make Endings, Beginnings all the more frustrating. I like a lot of these actors (which is the only reason I sat through the entire film), and none of them embarrass themselves as far as performances go. The only embarrassment is that this movie is now on their filmography forever.
The film is now available on most streaming platforms now, and will be released On Demand on May 1.
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