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A favorite movie of mine, Magnolia, is introduced with a narrator
talking about odds and the unlikelihood of certain things happening and
A Beginner's Guide to Endings starts in a very similar fashion. The
credits for this Jonathon Sobol film are cleverly presented as parts of
games of chance and from the outset there is that feeling that unlikely
things are going to happen and this will be an unpredictable and
unusual comedy. The Beginner's Guide was one of more than a dozen
options available at the Domestic Arrivals Film Festival in London
Ontario and it is one that I almost missed. When so many quality films
are offered in such a short time frame sometimes difficult choices have
to be made. This film was one of the best decisions I made and
everything about it impressed me. The award winning screenplay gave the
ensemble cast plenty of material to work with and their performances
were all pitch perfect.
J.K. Simmons serves as an adviser to the White brothers, a family so dysfunctional that they could lower the property values in any neighborhood they chose to call home. Siam Yu manages to deliver up some laughs as a very credible Todd, the youngest product of Duke White's many misadventures. While Harvey Keitel doesn't need a lot of screen time as the Duke White character his presence is felt throughout the full 92 minutes. Any casting changes would have made this a different film and it likely wouldn't have been a better different. Everybody needed to be who they were to make it work as well as it did. The shooting locations in Niagara Falls are very familiar to most people, but because of the close proximity to London there may have been a stronger connection for the audience here. This isn't a film for everyone but it is one that l will go out of my way to see again.
"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
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".
"The events leading up to my death were a lot like the rest of my life, things didn't go exactly as planned." Duke White (Keitel) is dead and his three sons are at the will reading. After hearing what they will get they also get another surprise, due to gambling problems their father signed them up for unsafe drug tests when they were babies and because of that they all find out they will die soon. All three sons handle the news differently but eventually they all take one last run at the one thing they have always wanted to do. Based off the preview this is a movie I was looking forward to. I really like these dark comedies and the cast was pretty good. I have to say that I really enjoyed this movie and laughed throughout, but this is another movie where I laughed at things I shouldn't be laughing at. The idea on it's own is pretty morbid but watching it it comes off as more comedy then depressing. There are some really funny lines in this and the running gag about Cal's (Caan) car is great and I loved hearing what they would say about it next. This is a very funny comedy but is not for everyone. Overall, really funny but this is a dark comedy so you must like that style of humor to fully enjoy this movie. I give it a B+
This movie is really impressive. I expected it to be some pretty bad stuff I'd turn off after a shot while but I liked it very much. The way it's told is a mixture of classic styles and it also reminded me a little of the way Tarantino tells his stories. The whole plot is cool and without comparison. Cast of characters, acting, settings, locations etc are completely awesome, character development as well. So I'm still stunned that I watched this movie 2 years after it came out and it only has 198 views with a rating of only 6.6 which is completely ridiculous to me. Music and ending are nice as well. I really liked it and I think it's one of those movies that's worth to be watched again. I guess someone did a very bad promotion for this DVD because it's worth to be watched by way more people and not only because of it's nice humor.
This is one seriously weird and quirky film. And, I don't think I'm off
base here in saying that there is no way you could possibly have seen a
film like this before...and if you have, please let me know!
The film begins with a TERRIBLE father (Harvey Keitel) jumping to his death at Niagara Falls. At his funeral are his five sons from five different women. And, not surprisingly, he was a HORRIBLE father to all of them. With the exception of the youngest (who is too young to realize his father was a jerk), they boys don't seem the least bit concerned about the death. After all, the man didn't act much like a father. At the reading of the will, however, three of the sons learn something TERRIBLE--their father signed them up for a drug study when they were kids and the medicine they took will make them die...very, very soon! The rest of the film consists of showing what these three men do with their final days. I'd try to describe what they did...but frankly you just need to see it to believe it!
While this plot sounds very sad, the film is hilarious due to the very, very quirky writing. The dialog is among the strangest and funniest I can recall...other than in "Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil". And, I loved how I could never predict where the story went next. It certainly is unique, strange and non-formulaic! And, it's also, most importantly, a lot of fun. A wonderful indie film for someone looking for a film totally unlike anything they've seen before...or since.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this one on Netflix streaming movies. Quirky and funny, great
entertainment for an afternoon with nothing better to do in the hot
Harvey Keitel is Duke White, he hasn't been a very good man and father. He has three grown sons by his original wife, then one more via an affair, for which his wife probably would have forgiven him. But when the next son came along, after a brief affair with a Vietnamese woman, that was enough.
Duke is in the process of killing himself as the movie opens, we are not quite sure why, but more details come out during the reading of the will, but Duke's brother, played well by J.K. Simmons. One of the reasons involves money that his sons were supposed to get, but Duke wasted it all on his gambling habit. The other was even bigger!
The writing is very clever and the acting spot-on most of the time. Anyone who enjoys a quirky and clever comedy should enjoy this movie.
SPOILERS: The second big surprise was Duke had enrolled his adult sons in a paid drug-testing program 10 years earlier, when the drug company found out the medicine causes thinning of the heart walls, they paid each one $100,000 in compensation and terminated the program. But Duke cashed all the checks for himself, and gambled the money away. He couldn't face the boys, so killed himself with a noose, a branch, and jumping in the river to go over Niagara Falls. So the boys make bucket lists of the things they want to do in the few weeks they have to live. But near the end mom shows up, reveals that the boys never took any drugs, she had switched the medicine for Tic-Tacs. And right before each boy was to make a big mistake in life, Duke's karma as he died going through the Falls helps to save each one. Too complicated to explain, one has to see the movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As with any good film, it's always important to start things off the
right way in order to spark your viewer's interest. How funny that a
film entitled "A Beginner's Guide To Endings" absolutely mastered the
art of an opening scene. The striking image of Oscar-Nominee Harvey
Keitel walking through a brightly lit carnival at night with a noose
around his neck immediately hooked my interest in this movie. When
Harvey Keitel started speaking, his voice over setting the movie's
tone, it just pulled me in even further. "The events leading up to my
death were a lot like the rest of my life," Keitel says. "Things didn't
go exactly as planned."
Keitel, playing Duke White, sets up the scene quickly, talking about all of the regrets in his life and introducing the few things he doesn't regret: bringing his five great boys into the world. Three of the boys are now adults and are introduced along with the rest of Duke's family via a nicely crafted "family scrapbook" sequence. Between Keitel's opening sequences and the animated credit sequence that immediately followed, I fell in love with this movie about five minutes in.
The main storyline begins in a local church, where his brother (J.K. Simmons of "Spiderman" and "Juno" fame) is the priest residing over Duke's funeral. But in traditional Duke fashion, there is no body since it appears Duke went over Niagara Falls. Simmons plays the character superbly, and builds up the films offbeat humor. He explains that Duke was never much for the Bible, so he instead reads the lyrics to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." The dysfunctional funeral continues in great fashion when one of Duke's sons (Scott Caan of the "Oceans Eleven" film series) shows up late, just in time to get in a brawl with his brothers in front of their father's casket. The fight is so bad that Simmons has to break out his first aid kit, which the family has used so many times the kit has been given the nickname, "Old Rusty." It is just a tiny detail that makes this oddball family feel real and made me like them more and more.
That is why the news they get at the reading of Duke's will hit me like a sucker punch. It's the crux of the plot and even the synopsis for the movie, so I don't feel bad revealing this, but writer/director Jonathan Sobol turns up the heat, revealing that Duke had the three oldest boys involved in an experimental drug treatment program that has now cut their life expectancy down to nothing and they'll be dead in a brief matter of time. While many of them find this rather hard to believe, one of the boys, Jacob (Paulo Costanzo of "Road Trip" and "Royal Pains") goes to his doctor in an attempt to find out the truth. The doctor tells him about the drug tested on them and is blunt when he asks if there is ever anything he wanted to do, followed by suggesting that he goes and does them.
Before long we see each brother handle their mortality in different ways. Scott Caan is a womanizer who is afraid of being like his dad who had a bunch of boys from different mothers, so he goes on a quest to find the one woman who got his motor going and who he feels he can commit to, a total psychopath named Miranda. His brother "Nuts" (a former boxer) is just trying to wrap things up with training his younger brother "Juicebox" for a boxing match, before realizing he's gotten his brother involved in something he has no business being a part of. And Jacob creates a bucket list of things he wants to do, taking his youngest brother along for the ride, as they go from one insane item on the checklist to the next.
Their three stories build into a glorious crescendo, and the editing pulls their stories together with some wonderful cuts that tighten the tension and milk the humor. What is fantastic is this could have been a dreary movie about regret and people facing their mortality, but Sobol injects a little dark humor in every scene and keeps the viewer wanting more.
Overall, "A Beginners Guide To Endings" is a beautifully paced movie that unfolds the plot quickly, and makes excellent use of the Niagara Falls setting. For a film that could have easily been too morbid or morose, it really makes for an entertaining and uplifting story in general. Definitely one of the best narrative movies I have seen in quite a while, and one I will be recommending to everyone I know.
This movie should have made it to the main stream. Like "Harold and Kumar", "Snatch" and other such movies, your definitely not watching this movie for the great believable story line or explosive drama. Once you get into the movie, however, it just gets better and better. The more ridiculous each character gets the better it gets! Another review mentioned this was a hidden gem and I couldn't agree more. It is nice to watch a movie that is original and well thought out, but at the same time doesn't take itself to seriously. I wish more movies were this entertaining. As I think about it the one thing that really makes this movie so good is that each character adds to the fun of the movie as a whole. Thumbs way up and prepare yourself to laugh.
Duke White (Harvey Keitel) decides to end his crazy gambling life by
hanging himself. When that fails, he jumps into Niagara Falls. He has 5
sons. He has three sons with Goldie (Wendy Crewson). Then came Juicebox
(Jared Keeso) from showgirl Champaigne. There is Todd (Siam Yu) from
the Siagon Incident and Goldie finally left him. Nevertheless she
remained the boys' mother.
In his will, Duke tells the three oldest that they are doom to die from drugs that they took for money along with him. The pharmaceutical company had paid each brother $100k as compensation for their impending death but Duke had lost it all betting on horses. The three brothers are sent into a spiral to find some kind of meaning in it all. Uncle Pal (J.K. Simmons) tries to help each one in his own way.
Eddie 'Nuts' White (Jason Jones) is a failed undefeated boxer who wins only because everybody keeps punching him in the junk. Cal (Scott Caan) is a womanizer who wants his teenage love Miranda (Tricia Helfer) back after sleeping with a waitress who also slept with dad. Jacob (Paulo Costanzo) is the responsible one and completely unhappy. He makes a bucket list to do.
Jason Jones is so ill-fitting as a boxer. If anybody should be the boxer, it should be Scott Caan. The three guys don't look anything like brothers. They don't fit together and have no brotherly chemistry. Paulo Costanzo and Jason Jones could be brothers but there is no chance for Scott Caan. The movie is so quirky that it makes it hard to follow and lacking in flow. Newcomer Jonathan Sobol is the writer/director. I think he has a lot to say and a lot of style. He just needs to rein it in and control it better. The other problem is that the three brothers go off on their own. It would help with the brotherly chemistry if they face their challenges together. I'm all for quirky comedies. It would help if the family is more together.
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