Last week saw the release of Gimme the Loot, the SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner by Adam Leon, which sees two graffiti artists seek revenge after their replica of the…
A Beginner’s Guide to Endings, first-time feature from writer-director Jonathan Sobol, begins with the suicide of Duke White (the inimitable Harvey Keitel). Or rather, it begins with the failed suicide of Duke, who’s left to wander through a carnival with a noose attached to the snapped tree branch that foiled him as he makes his way to the rushing waters of Niagara Falls to finish the job. Before Duke does the deed though he takes the time to deliver a lot of exposition in voice over. (And seriously, filmmakers, if you need voice over – hire Harvey Keitel.)
That exposition revolves around Duke’s family. He has five sons, delivered by three different women, and they are a motley crew. There’s Cal (Scott Caan) the reckless womanizer, the aggressive failed boxer Nuts (Jason Jones), reliable dreamer Cob (Paulo Costanzo), half-witted Juicebox (Jared Keeso), and the pre-adolescent, half Vietnamese baby of the family Todd (Siam Yu). As you may imagine from this list of progeny, Duke was never nominated for a Dad of the Year award. In fact, as we learn at the reading of the will, he’s responsible for the imminent deaths of Cal, Nuts, and Cob, resulting from some shady drug trials he signed them up for at $2000 a pop.
What follows for the next 70 minutes of A Beginner’s Guide to Endings is the struggle of Cal, Nuts, and Cob to right a lifetime of wrongs and failures and to find ways to be less like Duke, or (at least in the case of Cob) be more like him. That’s the gist of it anyway, but the gist will never do justice to the sparkle and wit of this little flick. It’s fast paced, colorful – in set design, character sketch, and language – and above all charming. In the end, it’s also a little bit touching, but we’ll forgive the movie that. From the visual jokes like poor boxer Nuts’ trophy engraved with “You tried your best” to sly Canadian in-jokes about skidoos to the sharp zing! of much of the dialogue (Duke’s will reminds Cal, “You can’t run around like a bull in the vagina shop forever”), it’s a sharp and funny delight from, well, beginning to ending.
A Beginner’s Guide to Endings will be available on DVD beginning August 28, 2012.
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