Published Sep 09, 2010I think it's about time we impose a blanket moratorium on the use of slow motions shots of men walking to classic rock songs in movies. It's basically the douche calling card, shouting from the rafters how dreadfully insecure and self-conscious a film is, and how desperate it is to be perceived as hip. There's nothing endearing, flattering or even cleverly referential about it. I mean, it was something Michael Bay did in Armageddon.
And, quite frankly, this presumption, based on a single image early on in A Beginner's Guide to Endings, is an accurate description of everything that unfolds in this Niagara Falls-based comedy, right down to the tired trajectory gag about Scott Caan driving a "pussy" car. It sets itself up as a pseudo-existential comedy about truncated annihilation anxiety, dropping a bombshell on three brothers when their father, Duke (Harvey Keitel), advises them in his will that they're all going to die soon because of some drug trial they were involved in years prior.
But because it's so superficially driven, this setup results in the basest reactions possible by the boys, with man-whore Cal (Caan) deciding he wants to marry Miranda (Tricia Helfer), the crazy chick that got away, and Jacob (Paulo Costanzo) rushing through his bucket list of daredevil stunts and talking to hot chicks he was previously afraid to approach. The oldest brother, Nuts (Jason Jones), dives back into boxing in an effort to make amends with his retarded younger brother.
Unsurprisingly, this results in an endless stream of miscalculations and unfortunate events as their shenanigans compound one another. It doesn't get a great deal more elaborate than a scene where Caan tries to intimidate Helfer's physically smaller, presumed ex-boyfriend, only to have the real ex, a giant, crazy man, appear from nowhere to challenge him to a fight. I believe that was a bit on an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, no? If not, it sounds like the sort of hijinks Major Nelson would be involved in.
With predictability and stereotypical responses propelling what little narrative exists forward, all there is to recommend is the comedy element, which is unfortunate, since there isn't a single funny moment. (eOne)