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With: Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan, Sebastian Stan, Matthew Gray Gubler, Lindsay Sloane, Shamier Anderson, Lawrence Rothman, Sherry Cola, Wendie Malick, Kyra Sedgwick, Ben Esler
Written by: Jardine Libaire, Drake Doremus
Directed by: Drake Doremus
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 110
Date: 04/17/2020

Endings, Beginnings (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Humdrum Threesome

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The nature of drama and storytelling is conflict, watching our favorite characters go through all kinds of trouble, and hopefully emerge out the other side a little wiser. But there's a fine balance to this art, and Drake Doremus's Endings, Beginnings topples right over. Rather than identifying with its main character, the movie makes us smack our foreheads, asking out loud, "what the hell are you thinking?"

Going forward, I may discuss a spoiler or two, but only to illustrate my point. This story is about Daphne (Shailene Woodley), a thirtysomething woman who has hit some kind of wall, broke up with her boyfriend, quit her job and moved into her sister's poolhouse. She swears off men and alcohol, but of course, it's not long before she begins drinking again, and dating not one but two men. Frank (Sebastian Stan) is the cool, confident, swaggering bad boy, who seems far more interesting than the ordinary Jack (Jamie Dornan), although he at least has an Irish accent. Daphne is dismayed when she learns that the two men are friends, and while they try to navigate the situation as amicably as possible, Daphne just keeps on dating both of them.

It's probably not too much of a surprise when she becomes pregnant, and, of course, has no idea which of the two men are the father. (Note that Endings, Beginnings is not a screwball comedy, but a very serious drama.) Despite her own assertion that she would make a "shitty mom," she makes a most bewildering decision, and this is supposed to be the movie's "happy" ending. Her only saving grace is that flashbacks finally reveal what broke her, and it's pretty awful. But it comes too late, and is too vague to help the movie right itself.

This is also one of those movies in which none of the side characters have any lives of their own. Every single time they appear onscreen, it's to ask about Daphne's life, and what's going on in Daphne's world. Their own little worlds don't count. Kyra Sedgwick plays one of these roles, for some reason. Moreover, the dialogue used whenever anyone tries to relate to Daphne is the type of stuff that just makes you embarrassed to speak English.

Woodley is a fine and appealing actor, but not even she can generate enough goodwill to make Endings, Beginnings anything better than it is. It's a story with less an arc than a flatline, less satisfying than it is aggravating. It's available during this time of sheltering-at-home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will make you want to continue staying inside.

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