Endings, Beginnings @ TIFF

In what I think was supposed to be a look at intimacy and paths lives can take, turned into a rather muddled navel-gazing film. I went in REALLY wanting to like this film as it is filled with rather likable actors like Shailene Woodley and Jamie Dornan (who unbelievably plays the guy the girl does not pick!), but it wore me down. Also going for it was that it is about two of my favourite filmatic subjects – finding one’s way in life and love. It could be argued that those two are one in the same…that is a discussion for another time.

What we are here to discuss is the latest film by co-screenwriter (though he did admit there was really no dialogue written going into the film rather it was mostly improvised)/director Drake Doremus (Douchebag, Equals). It has all the elements of a typical indie film with its impossibly clever dialogue (very impressed that it was mostly improvised), people who are beautiful without really trying and tons of emo. Doremus et al have squeezed in as many tropes of indie film as they can into the film’s 110 minutes. Too many. The clichés abound. Pretty much strangling any of the life out of the goings on.

A question brought up time and time again during the film is what exactly intimacy is? Can you find it with multiple people? Questions followed by more questions. In this day and age, does a woman really need a partner to start a family? Why are beautiful people seemingly so damaged and unhappy? Loads of questions and because most of the characters are so self-involved, you never really get any answers. Not that I always require an answer, but….come on!

After breaking up with her long term boyfriend (Matthew Gray Gubler – from television’s Criminal Minds) and quitting her art world job, Daphne (Shailene Woodley – from television’s Big Little Lies) moves into her half sister Billie’s (Lindsay Sloane – Horrible Bosses, The Other Guys) pool house. Based on discussions she has with her art club (think of book club but with painting) buddies, Daphne, who has never been single her whole life, decides to go without a man for six months and to at the same time stop drinking.

The stop drinking comes about because of a night where things got out of hand. She was out with work friends partying and cannot remember exactly what happened. Bits and pieces of the night keep coming back to her, and she doesn’t feel good about it.

Her self-imposed celibacy (and drinking, for that matter) does not last very long at all as she finds herself with not one, but two interesting prospects. And they happen to be friends. Frank (Sebastian Stan – Avengers: End Game, Captain America: Civil War) is the witty yet dark and mysterious guy who she has great sex and tons of fun with. Jack (Jamie Dornan – Fifty Shades of Grey, A Private War) is the Irish writer/professor who has a dog and wants to be in a relationship with Daphne. We all know where this is going, don’t we…

If the characters here were half-way as interesting as the actors who play them then we might have had the film I was hoping for. The problem is none of the three sides of the triangle are even likable. Except maybe Jack, who is not really fleshed out a character though. Daphne is a childish, self-absorbed 20-something who blames the way she is with men on her mother (Wendie Malick – from television’s Hot in Cleveland). How can the film succeed if the center of it is not someone we want to “win”?

The actors all give it the college try, but the fact that there seemed to be no real path for the story makes it feel stuck in the mud kinda like Daphne’s own life.

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