Friday, August 17, 2012

A Beginner's Guide to Endings: Movie Review


A life adventure for three common-sense-lacking, dysfunctional brothers. 

“A Beginner’s Guide to Endings” begins with Duke White (Harvey Keitel) rattling off odds of chance, of life, of games, and of death. He’s determined to kill himself one way or another and see if his death can give his sons better odds at living a semi-functional life. He has five sons, from three different women, and we first meet them at his funeral. 2010 (with 2012 release)

Directed by: Jonathan Sobol

Screenplay by: Jonathan Sobol

Starring: Jason Jones, Scott Caan, Paulo Costanzo and JK Simmons

The eldest is Eddie (Jason Jones) and he’s nicknamed “Nuts” after a failed but spirited attempt at becoming a boxer; Cal (Scott Caan) is a womanizing, scatterbrained meathead. Jacob (Paulo Costanzo) is able to hold down a house and a job, but that certainly doesn’t mean he’s happy. Years later came Juicebox (Jared Keeso) another failing boxer following in the footsteps of his big brother, and many years later came Todd (Siam Yu) whose arrival marked the departure of the mother of the first three.

Following the funeral where Cal showed up late, Paulo tried to beat him up, and then Eddie showed him how to throw a punch, the brothers gather at a bar for the reading of the will. The will provides the plot for the film and let’s just say it sends the three oldest brothers on ill-advised, death-defying stunts to reaffirm their lives. It’s as funny as it is chaotic and the completely unrealistic, ridiculous antics actually go along way to complementing the clever and comedic nature of the film.

At first, the odd casting (Jason Jones as a dark, brooding boxer) can distract from the good qualities, but the three elder brothers, in particular, have fantastic comedic chemistry. The best part of the casting has J.K. Simmons as the uncle and minister who tries to dispense sane advice, but don’t worry, they rarely listen to him.

Primarily shot and set in Niagara Falls, the city and the falls themselves provide a suitable backdrop for the unfolding and unraveling of the boys’ plans and lives. Unfortunately, the film itself has a very dull or washed-out look and feel; the shots and use of colour are lacking a bit of punch that the screenplay and actors have. Perhaps it’s just an outcome of the low budget, and most fans of dark comedies should be able to easily overlook it and enjoy “A Beginner’s Guide to Endings”.

Similar Titles:

The Joneses (2009) - A thoughtful and original twist on keeping up with the Joneses.

The Descendants (2011) - Scaling the Hawaiian country-side with tears and laughter.