A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Endings, Beginnings is a mature relationship drama about Daphne (Shailene Woodley), a recently unemployed single woman who meets and becomes romantically tangled with two different men (Sebastian Stan and Jamie Dornan). The love triangle features several realistic sex scenes, which have varying degrees of explicitness and nudity (expect to see Woodley topless a fair bit) and involve a variety of positions and acts. There's also frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more) and even more frequent smoking and drinking. The main character's chain-smoking is so prevalent that it's mentioned in conversation. In one scene, a character appears to do a line of cocaine. Between the sex and substance use, this is a decidedly adult drama.
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What's the story?
In ENDINGS, BEGINNINGS, 30-something Daphne (Shailene Woodley) has just broken up with her boyfriend of four years, resigned from her job in the art industry, and moved into her married-and-pregnant older sister Billie's (Lindsay Sloane) guest house. At Billie's New Year's Eve party, Daphne -- who's committed to staying sober and celibate for six months -- meets not one but two love interests: charismatic, hard-partying Frank (Sebastian Stan) and cerebral, intense writing professor Jack (Jamie Dornan). Daphne ends up going on a date (well, a one-night stand and a date) with both men, only to later realize that they're close friends. Daphne appreciates the stability and safety of her relationship with Jack but craves her exciting chemistry with Frank. As most love triangles do, this one hurtles toward pain, heartbreak, and personal transformation.
Is it any good?
Woodley's nuanced performance and the leading men's on-screen magnetism make for good love scenes, but this is a messy, meandering movie. There's an art to acting vulnerable and haunted, and Woodley has perfected it for most of her career, from The Spectacular Now to Big Little Lies. Her work in Drake Doremus' indie drama is yet another example of what a gifted actress she is, even if the film isn't as good as its talented cast. Daphne isn't necessarily a likable character: She repeatedly makes impulsive, selfish mistakes for the sake of spontaneity and sex. That's relatable in a young adult character but less endearing in someone older and (supposedly) wiser. And it's hard to reconcile the good performances with everything else: The pacing is slow, the dialogue is semi-improvised (and it shows), and the character arcs are disappointing.
Love triangles are a cliché, particularly when they involve best friends with contrasting personalities vying for the same person. Stan's Frank is the predictably distractingly attractive but no good womanizer who can't be bothered with beds when tables, floors, and cars will do. And Dornan's Jack is the predictably ridiculously handsome but somewhat dull writer who prefers the bed, cuddling, and talking about philosophy and feelings. Even the supposed twist in Endings, Beginnings will feel formulaic to audiences familiar with romance novels and soap operas. Doremus is capable of telling an emotional love story -- 2011's Like Crazy holds up -- but this is an underwhelming melodrama by comparison. Still, there's something to be said about quality acting, and the cast, from the three leads to Kyra Sedgwick and Wendie Malick (both underused but fantastic as Daphne's artist friend and co-dependent mother), is much better than the movie as a whole.
Talk to your kids about ...
Discuss the amount of sex in the movie. Is it necessary to the story? Why or why not?
Do you think of this movie as a love story? What are your thoughts on love triangle plots? When do they work, and when don't they?
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