Filmmaker Charlie Kaufman is quite the character, beyond writing modern surrealist classics like “Being John Malkovich,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Adaptation” and writing and directing some of his own strange postmodern features like “Synecdoche, New York” and the stop-motion film “Anomalisa.” Kaufman has been doing the press rounds quite a bit this summer, promoting not only his upcoming Netflix movie “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” but also his new book “Antkind.” And a portrait has emerged, though to be fair, one that was always there if you’re paying attention: Kaufman is deeply neurotic, self-loathing, and very misanthropic (definitely read that recent New York Times profile, or NYT Book interview; “I’m sorry, what? I’m a bit distracted. I’m fairly certain I just swallowed a tooth.”). And yet, through all the pessimism, anxiety and self-disgust, he eventually finds hope, which really is a perfect analogy for the kind of movies he makes.
His latest, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” sounds like a typical Charlie Kaufman mindfuck, however, it’s also been described as a psychological horror film, which gives it a twist.
“I don’t set out to do a mindfuck,” Kaufman told EW recently about his new film. “I’m not setting out to do something that ‘tops’ some sort of brainteaser I might have done before. But there’s no question that I’m trying to build on the stuff that I’ve already done.”
The movie is a road trip of sorts: a man (Jesse Plemons) takes his girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) to meet with his parents (David Thewlis and Toni Collette) at their slightly haunted home, but they find themselves going on a terrifying detour. Things get weird and depressing as Kaufman is wont to do: “Loneliness and hopelessness and regret — these are things that are part of the fabric of this film,” he told EW.
Here’s the official synopsis:
Despite second thoughts about their relationship, a young woman (Jessie Buckley) takes a road trip with her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to his family farm. Trapped at the farm during a snowstorm with Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis), the young woman begins to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about her boyfriend, herself, and the world. An exploration of regret, longing and the fragility of the human spirit, I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS is directed and written by Academy Award® winner Charlie Kaufman (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND). Inspired by Iain Reid’s bestselling namesake novel.
Kaufman, outside of his works with Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, and left to his own devices, can be too sad sack and miserablist. In my opinion, “Synecdoche, New York” definitely falls into that category, whereas “Anomalisa,” still finds much humor in the darkness and self-deprecating digs. How will “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” turn out? Well, that synopsis and Kaufman’s thoughts on the film sound quite dour to be honest, but you always have to give this filmmaker a chance. “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” debuts on Netflix on September 4 and is avoiding the fall film festival circuit entirely, but then again that seems to be Netflix’s overarching plan for the disorienting year that is 2020. Watch the new trailer below and tell us where you think it may fall.