This is the end, beautiful friend

This is the end, beautiful friend

A week or so ago when Keith wrote his blog entry on walking out of movies, I commented that I find it hard to walk out of films I'm not enjoying, because who knows, they just might get better. While I don't recall ever loathing a movie until the ending fixed everything, it does feel like I've seen an unusual number of movies lately where the ending has made me rethink the entire film.

For instance. Cronicas seemed like a standard police procedural right up until the abrupt ending, which came in a place that changed my mind about what the film was about, and left me feeling a lot more confident that it had accomplished what it set out to do. The Edukators started off interesting, then headed downhill, but the ending put the cynical bite back into what was becoming a slack fairy tale. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory struck me as a pretty decent but low-stakes, low-energy, low-momentum movie, possibly because it stuck so close to the book… right up until the end. I was pleased Burton stuck with his source material, but when he suddenly left the tracks, I was excited for the first time, as I waited to see where he'd take the film. The upcoming Dave McKean/Neil Gaiman feature Mirrormask seems pretty unfocused throughout, but the ending clears up the metaphor and gives it all new meaning.

And then there are the movies where it goes the other way, and the ending undermines everything that had been working up until that point. I was thrilled with Spielberg's War Of The Worlds, with his daring in making what looked like a truly grim horror story. Then he had to go and spoil it with a cheap, unlikely super-happy ending. (Keith verbalized his response later as "It's REALLY too late for me to start hating this movie… but…") I really enjoyed Everything Is Illuminated, but the final twist – taken from the book, even though the reasons leading up to it have been radically altered – was jarring and awkward and deflated the film. I loved My Date With Drew until Drew Barrymore actually showed up at the end to inadvertently make all the star's efforts look less like a lark and more like a horrifying waste of his time.

But really, the worst offenders in this category are almost always conspiracy movies. Conspiracy movies are almost always fun until the conspiracy gets uncovered, because The Big Reveal is almost always disappointing. A wide-open conspiracy is an exciting guessing game; an exposed one usually raises questions like "How could they possibly have known exactly where she'd be and when she'd be there?" "How could they have been in all those places at once?" Mysteries are generally only interesting when they're still mysterious.

As a critic, it's hard to tackle the issue of film endings without giving too much away. Readers may forgive a critic who voices an unpopular opinion or even gets the facts wrong, but who can forgive a critic who blows the ending of a story, especially when it's a surprise ending? On the other hand, not acknowledging that the ending of a given film completely contradicts the rest of it, or suddenly resolves it into brilliance, or just lamely peters out, is failing to address what may be the most significant aspect of the film. So it's a bit of a juggling act – especially when addressing readers who are apparently (judging from the responses to Keith's post) a lot more likely to walk out of a bad film than I am, instead of hanging on to the bitter end, hoping that somehow… against all odds… it'll redeem itself.

So out of curiosity, what films are you happiest, or least happy, that you stuck with to the end? What film endings surprised or annoyed or disappointed you most?

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