Published Apr 20, 2020Jamie Dornan or Sebastian Stan? This is the difficult choice Shailene Woodley must make in Drake Doremus's Endings, Beginnings. Or, the question becomes, can she have both? Becoming intertwined with two guys should create a narrative of great tension and drama, but instead, the film's direction and writing by Doremus, along with Jardine Libaire, create a dull and lifeless episode of The Bachelorette.
All in the span of a week, Daphne (Woodley) has broken up with her boyfriend Adrian (Matthew Gray Gubler), quit her job, and moved into her sister Billie's (Lindsay Sloane) pool house. "Everything's great," she says sarcastically as she reflects on the fact that she invested four years of her life in a relationship that didn't work out. But that was the first ending for her, and now she wants a new beginning. She's determined to focus on herself and take a break from dating; however, Daphne is quite melancholy for most of the first half, spending much of the time looking lonely in a room full of people. That is, until she meets Frank (Stan) and Jack (Dornan) at her sister's New Year's party. She hits it off with both of them. Frank is the life of the party, while Jack is the intellectual. The love triangle between them begins innocently enough: she'll be out with one of them, under the agreement they're just friends, while texting the other. But as these things often do, romantic feelings develop and jealously emerges, and Frank drops the bombshell that Jack and himself are close friends. It gets messy real fast as Daphne goes back and forth between the two, with one knowing of the other relationship while the other's in the dark.
Endings, Beginnings is about secrets, lies, love, and hot people having hot sex. That's basically all there is to this narrative. And because of that, it's one of those films that makes you grab your phone about halfway through. The lighting doesn't help the dullness of it all as it's quite dark, creating a moody atmosphere. However, the film does have its own style, especially in the way it visually presents the text messages received by Daphne from her two lovers. It's different than your typical text bubbles. Combine that with Marianne Bakke's cinematography, which, despite being bleak, makes certain scenes feel like a lyric video from a band. Speaking of music, Woodley has a scene where she sings, and she's quite good. She also brings the emotion necessary for the role of someone who feels stuck in her life. As for the supporting men, all Dornan and Stan have to do is be charming – at which they excel, of course – and that's about it.
Doremus and Libaire's script has many weaknesses. Images of what seems to be an important part of Daphne's story (a mystery man named Jed) are shown in flashback but never delved into, and the backstories of the men she's entangled with are only explored to the smallest degree. This creates a film about characters we want to know more about, but ultimately, end up uninterested in.
Endings, Beginnings is a film that could have benefitted from humour, becoming much more playful with its premise, making it like a modern, revitalized version of Paul Mazursky's 1969 comedy, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. However, it isn't without reflection. The film's dialogue may feel unoriginal at times, but it touches on everything from the tough choices that often lead to fulfilling change; the importance of loving yourself; and above all, that it's okay to not have your life together by a certain age – you're not the only one. (Samuel Goldwyn Films)