mulan

Cinemaholics Podcast #184 – Mulan, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

In our first official episode with new Cinemaholics co-host Abby Olcese, we discuss the honor and honor that is to be found honorable in Mulan, the latest live-action Disney remake, which stars Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Tzi Ma, Gong Li, and Jet Li. Plus, we review Charlie Kaufman’s new mind-bending film I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which is now on Netflix and stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis. Please welcome Abby to the show by commenting below!

Music in this episode: “I’ll Make a Man Out of You (Lofi)” by Lash Music

Show Notes:

  • 00:00:00 – Cobb & Cooper Face the Mutants
  • 00:04:30 – Intro & Off-Topics
  • 00:13:30 – Mini Reviews: “Ted Lasso,” “Raised by Wolves,” “Lovecraft Country,” Unhinged
  • 00:24:00 – Listener feedback: Are you going to pay $30 to see Mulan?
  • 00:32:45 – Mulan
  • 00:55:55 – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Links to what we mentioned on the show: 

Ways to connect with us:

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4 Comments

  1. Welcome to the pod, Abby!! The first episode of Cinemaholics I listened to was the TULLY episode, believe it or not, and I’ve wished since then that you could be on more often 🙂

  2. I love the new voicemail segment. If I wasn’t so self-conscious I’d be on top of that. Also, gotta say I liked MULAN a lot more than you folks did! It wasn’t as good as the animated for sure but I loved the action and especially Gong Li’s performance.

  3. Someone on IMDb said it best

    Spoilers

    I had the pleasure of reading Iain Reid’s book a few years ago, and remember devouring it in practically one sitting. The biggest takeaway from me was the incredibly eerie tone throughout, the multitude of questions I had, and then the shocking plot twist that gave the title “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” an entirely new and powerful meaning. I am a fan of Kaufman’s work, and was excited when I learned he was adapting this wonderful, creepy, and thought-provoking book. However, after watching it, I feel like his entire approach to the novel was a big mistake and took away most of what made it an entertaining and powerful story. So, before I go into my biggest problems with the way this was handled, I have to say that clearly most of my opinions are based on having read the book beforehand. Therefore, I genuinely cannot say how I would feel about this film if I didn’t have that prior knowledge and comparison. Others may very well enjoy this film and think it strong, but compared to the book…well let’s get into that.

    1) THE TONE My biggest takeaway when reading the book was that, though there was a very strong off-key/strange feeling to the characters and events, you were never entirely sure what was wrong, nor did you fully know it wasn’t based in reality. This gave the story a very creepy and unpredictable quality that kept you guessing. Though I have enjoyed Kaufman’s surrealist images in his past films – this sense of dream-like scenes – from the first meeting with the parents at the farm, you immediately and undoubtably know this story isn’t based in reality. I know this is a deliberate approach Kaufman chose, especially since he continually interweaves it with images of the janitor at the school, but I feel like it takes away from the spine of the story itself. Because of this, the eeriness from the book was largely gone and I found myself less interested in what I was watching because it lacked any grounding.

    2) LENGTH/EDITING Much of this film feels very dragged out. I have a high tolerance for what others consider “slower” films, but in this case I feel that every change of scenery (the car, the farm, back to the car, the school) were long, dragged out scenes that could’ve used with moments of better pacing or editing. For example, in the beginning Buckley’s character quotes a poem that she wrote. There were many interesting aspects of this poem, but it began to drag on and I came in and out of focus. Just one example in a film that could’ve used stronger editing or script tightening.

    3) THEMES I give Kaufman credit for taking certain themes in the book, like aging, and crafting impactful commentary on how people are treated, looked at, and how they feel about their own lives as they age. However, I do feel that – though oftentimes beautiful – some of these themes were too on-the-nose at certain points, therefore lessening its impact. I feel this happened more commonly towards the end of the film, once they got to the school (ex. The conversation around “Baby It’s Cold Outside” felt more preachy, rather than a genuine conversation, or a written scene that added any original thought to this conversation. Just one example.)

    4) THE ENDING This is the biggest problem and why the final shot of this film feels less like a button and more like a “is it over?” Getting back to the book, one of the biggest takeaways from it was the deeply unnerving sense of dread and fear the reader experienced throughout, especially as it continued to crescendo up to the end where a shocking twist was laid out! Basically, the “Lucy” character was in the school, trying to find her boyfriend, and she ended up having to hide from the janitor who seemed like he was going to kill her. I was TERRIFIED while reading it, and had no idea where it was going. Then BAM, the twist ending that the janitor had actually created all of these characters and was writing about them before he committed suicide. Therefore “I’m thinking of ending things” took on an extremely powerful context that you hadn’t yet seen, bringing the entire story together and staying with you long after you read it!

    Kaufman didn’t have ANY of this. There was no real tension once Buckley’s character talked to the janitor, and instead poetic images (dancing, choreography, a final musical number, etc) replaced all of this. Similarly to what I said before about being too on-the-nose with themes, we were very hit over the head with the janitor’s sense of self, his comparison to the dying, maggot filled pig as he walked naked in the hallway, and then the musical number at the end that went on a bit too long and didn’t have a strong enough impact. Also to not have the janitor, at any point say “I’m thinking of ending things” is such a travesty and why the ending doesn’t feel tied in properly to the rest of the film.

    Listen, the actors were great, as always, visually there were some stunning scenes, the lighting particularly stood out, etc. The big problem was Kaufman twisting this story that worked so well in the book into the story he wanted to tell – he didn’t properly honor the source material, and what he did instead didn’t work. This sometimes happens with adaptations, especially with an auteur, so I guess I should’ve expected it. And, again, if you haven’t read the book then maybe it is powerful (though I still feel like it needed some editing). However, the original story from the novel was extremely well done, and incredibly creepy and unnerving. Mostly, though, there was a solid climax and jaw-dropping twist that made the whole story complete. Because Kaufman changed the entire ending, and took out all levels of creepiness, there was no actual climax, and I wasn’t sure the movie was over until the credits rolled. It’s a shame, because the book was great and I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about it. Honestly, Kaufman shouldn’t have been the one to adapt this, or he should’ve, at the very least, properly “ended things”.

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