There’s a moment in Drake Doremus’ ENDINGS, BEGINNINGS that affected me deeply. Curled on her side, Shailene Woodley’s Daphne is held tight by her on-again-off-again “fuck buddy”, Frank (Sebastian Stan). What appears on the surface to be a tender moment is in fact something more disturbing; surrounded by strangers and dependent upon him for transportation, he’s manipulated her into a situation from which she can’t escape. I recognized myself in Daphne’s face, contorted in silent agony; I’d once heard the equivalent of Frank’s slurred, meaningless placations. What Woodley and Stan manage to capture in this scene is never again replicated in a film mired by clichés.
In an attempt to turn the well-worn (white, attractive, heterosexual) love triangle trope on its head, Doremus and co-writer Jardine Libaire penned a story told from the female point-of-view. It follows Daphne—in stilted editing choices, dreamy ambient lighting, and infuriating close-ups—as she navigates the doldrums of her early thirties. She quits her job, ends a stable relationship, and moves in with her sister. Unaware of their friendship, she tests the romantic waters with two different men she meets at a party. Her head and her heart must battle it out (blah, blah, blah) as she samples both the sweet, stable Jack (Jamie Dornan) and the diametrical wild child, Frank.
Unfortunately, inversion of a trope doesn’t equate to actual subversion. We aren’t given much reason to care about any of the characters who orbit Daphne’s life. Dornan and Stan are wasted; the offense is particularly egregious in the latter’s case. Frank is the macho manic pixie dream boy. He smokes and drinks and is essentially a life support system for a penis (yes, the film leans into the reductive misconception that a man’s skill as a lover can be, uh, measured).
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Endings, Beginnings will be able to stream starting May 1, 2020.