Thursday, March 27, 2014
Riske Business: Adam Picks the Ending
Are ambiguous endings used as cinematic poetry because a literal representation would rob an outcome or theme of its power? Or is it a matter of a director or writer copping out and refusing to pick a direction for the movie to conclude? Because I love Mad Libs and just saw Enemy (which has the most WTF ending of 2014 to-date)*, I’m using this week’s column to give you my answer to what happened in 20 movies with endings that are open to interpretation. Spoilers, obviously.
American Psycho – Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is not a killer. He’s basically weird, enormously stressed out and has an extremely active imagination.
Blade Runner – Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a replicant. The only person who doesn’t think so is Harrison Ford, who may actually also be a replicant.
Tom F**king Hanks.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) is grief stricken about being partly responsible for the death of Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), so she kills herself. Because of the fantasy elements of the movie, it’s reasonable to think that Jen and Lo (Chen Cheng) will reunite someday in the afterlife or reincarnation etc.
Ghost World – Enid (Thora Birch) gets the hell away from everyone after realizing that she’s toxic. She’s still feeling sorry for herself so it’s unclear if she will learn from her experiences. #NoCountryForSnarkyGirls
The Graduate – Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) and Elaine (Katherine Ross) realize they may have fucked up but stick together because what choice do they have? Both will spend the 1970s avoiding their parents before eventually eating crow and reconciling with them.
Inception – Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is still dreaming but doesn’t care. He is reunited with his children, which is what he wanted all along.
Labyrinth – Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) has a complete break from reality and is insane. She grows up to become the hot crazy girl people talk about meeting one time on JDate.
Lost in Translation – Bob (Bill Murray) tells Charlotte (Scarlett Johansen) she should trust that everything will work alright in the end. Cut to five years later: they become Facebook friends and follow each other on Twitter.
Martha Marcy May Marlene – Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), her sister (Sarah Paulson) and her brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy) are not in immediate danger from the cult. It’s in Marcy’s mind. I think it’s another case of an unreliable narrator. If not, why would Watts (Brady Corbett) leave Marcy at the diner? Or why wouldn’t the guy watching her swim go after her immediately?
Prisoners – Det. Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) figures out that Dover (Hugh Jackman) is buried underneath the car. Dover is freed and goes to jail for a while. Suggesting that Det. Loki leaves the crime scene (and Dover dies down there) doesn’t make sense for the Det. Loki character, who has been shown to be determined and smart throughout the rest of the movie.
Shutter Island – Teddy/Andrew (Leonardo DiCaprio) is faking his delusion in an effort to get lobotomized because he wants to rid himself of the guilt of killing his wife (Michelle Williams) and not being there to save his children. Not sure how ambiguous this one actually is. Doesn’t everyone see it this way?
Taxi Driver – The entire movie is from Travis Bickle’s (Robert DeNiro) point of view so I don’t think his fate has been decided yet. The cab ride he gives to Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) at the end is a projection of what Travis wants to happen – basically, that he’s validated and admired for killing Sport (Harvey Keitel) and saving Iris (Jodie Foster) by the people he wanted to impress. The weird sound effect and camera work after he drops Betsy off indicates that no matter what happens, Travis did not find closure or normalcy from the shootout. Even if he survives and is not arrested, he’ll still be crazy and dangerous.
The Thing (1982) – Both MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) are both still human but will freeze to death to ensure ‘the thing’ doesn’t survive.
Total Recall (1990) – Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is dreaming.
The Wrestler –Randy (Mickey Rourke) is going to die of a heart attack during or shortly after completing his jump off the ropes. He knows it and he’s content with it.
Leave a comment with whether you agree or disagree. Do you think filmmakers intentionally set out to make their movie ambiguous or is it something they decide during the process of crafting the story?