10 Movies with Great Starts and Crappy Endings

by - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

 I dedicate this movie to Jennifer Westfeldt, as I have watched a bunch of her movies this week (Kissing Jessica Stein, Friends with Kids, Ira and Abby) and I am noticing a serious trend. Westfeldt begins with really intriguing and original premises and then the endings are all a let down (seriously, get a whole room of your parents and therapists in a room so you can tell them you are going to just do it your own way? How is that different from the rest of the movie? Why does Jennifer Westfeldt feel that every urban-living individual in the world is ridiculously self-involved??).

My favorite professor at Stanford often makes the point that just because regular Hollywood order is restored by the end of the film does not mean that the chaos that came before was nullified, but I have to admit it is hard to love a movie when you don't love the end (I can also think of films you just watch for the ending-like Roman Holiday- but I think that is rarer). So here is a list of films that hit a bum note right when they should be bringing it home. Also, just in case this wasn't clear, this post needs a spoiler alert.

10. Blade Runner- It's an unending dystopia! Except at the end of the movie, it seems to be about a fifteen minute drive to Maine or something. The desire for the idyllic ending suggests there is a space outside the system, but if there is space outside the system, why have we cared this whole time? I am pretty sure the ending is one of the things Scott changes from iteration to iteration, but the forest drive is definitely a head scratcher.
9. Brigadoon- Blech. I mean, this is obviously the fault of the show as well, but the power of their love brings the town back so he can go off with her forever? And everyone he knows is now dead? And let's hope that area of the world stays undeveloped, or that is going to get confusing. The premise is kind of interesting, but everything from there on is nothing to get excited about. Brigadoon has about a million leaps in logic that can be difficult to get on board with, but the cheesiness of Kelly's acting takes it to another level in this movie. I have heard people defend it, saying that as you get older, you get it more, so hating this movie also tells me that I am young. I am ok with that.
8.The Philidelphia Story- I won't knock Katherine, because that would be crazy, but Jimmy Stewart's plot line ends in such a crazypants way. He offers to marry her, she says no, he heads back to Elizabeth (his photographer lady friend), and she takes him back???? All in about thirty seconds? Incomprehensible.
7. Kissing Jessica Stein- Alright, JW, this is your first entry on the list. I really like Jennifer Westfeldt in theory, and I generally like her as an actress, but her movies just lose their oomph by the end! In this movie, two formerly straight women decide to switch it up and have a relationship with each other. Jessica Stein, the central character, is pretty high strung and anxious about the judgement of others, while Helen, her new lady friend, seems pretty chill and open. They get to really like eachother, and the movie asks really interesting questions about the line between friendship and romance. But then, it doesn't really try to answer them. The film slowly pulls away from the central relationship, instead focusing on one of Jessica's old relationships and the ways the women relate to Jessica's world (through her brothers wedding). We get a "three month later" card, and we see Helen dump Jessica, because their relationship has slid back into a friendship. Jessica thinks this is a good thing, and Helen wants someone to rip her clothes off. In this conversation, we are supposed to see how the whole thing is resolved, but it feels like a cop out. Then we throw both women into relationships with other people, and wrap the whole thing up. It's not particularly satisfying. If the point is that the relationship got them where they needed to be, it would be nice to actually see what they learned/ what they got out of it.
6. Grease- Ok, Grease is definitely one of those movies that you either love or you hate. I mostly don't mind it, and I genuinely enjoy a couple of the numbers. But the ending is ridiculous. First of all, having the moral be that you can find love, just change everything about yourself is a huge downer. Even worse, why does no one mention that they drive their cars into the heavens? Was it all a science fiction movie? Or a fantasy film? Just weird.
5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith- I actually like the premise of this movie, and in general I like Angelina Jolie just fine. The premise is super fun, and it is a relatively feminist film in that both members of the couple are completely badass. The weird part is that the writers didn't bother to actually figure out the twist, so there is some sort of vague narrative where both of their agencies is trying to get them to turn against the other one and then they take them all on or something? Good for the makers of the movie for thinking of the idea, but if you don't finish writing it, your big end twist can drag your whole movie down.
4. Four Weddings and a Funeral- Kissing in the rain and Andie MacDowell? Lame. Take this as a stand in for every kissy love proclamation that has come after, because unless you do it really well, it feels pretty lazy and tired. 
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail- Can anyone even remember the end of this movie? I am pretty sure they are intercepted by modern day police officers, but after the bunny, I feel like everyone's attention moves elsewhere. Because the film is so episodic, maybe there is less need to finish a narrative arc, but it kind of feels like they ran out of ideas and money. Or maybe they just thought it would be funnier to end the quest in failure, but there is a reason that when we watched this at high school parties, we never got to the end.
2. Red River- The whole movie develops a complex and oedipal rivalry between my beloved JW and Monty Clift. They have a big break up, and then for the rest of the movie, there is a lingering sense of dread and danger. People say over and over that JW is going to kill Monty. At the climax of the film, John Wayne splits a red sea of cattle in front of him, and they get into a huge (very well shot) fight seen. Then Joanne Dru shoots a gun into the air and spews a bunch of nothing. And then they are best friends. It is so dumb, which is sad, because otherwise the film is so good. But it is seriously the worst anticlimax I can think of in the history of film.
1.Friends with Kids- Ok, this gets the #1 spot, because I just watched it this week and the ending was so spectacularly bad that it blew my mind. The whole film centers on a relationship between two friends that decide to platonically have kids together. All goes well, they date other people, interesting stuff happens. Then the last 20 minutes, the film goes off the rails. The lady makes her love proclamation, and Adam Scott's superdoushe shoots her down, because he is moving in with Megan Fox. Though the last 5 minutes are truly horrible, it is the first love proclamation that takes the movie off the rails, and it would have been so much less cheap to get them together in a less cliche way. Then, the two are apart, the woman moves to Brooklyn, and Adam Scott breaks up with Megan Fox.

 After dropping child off (he is like 4 now, but they never treat him like an actual person oor even a responsibility that might take up their time and make them less selfish assholes), he has his love realization, spins the car around and fights for her. Well, sort of. He makes a speech about how he is going to "fuck the shit out of her" until she realizes how attracted he is to her. And we don't say it once, JW is so proud of this idea that she makes him say it like 5 times. Oh, Ben Wyatt. I think we were trying to twist this PLAYED OUT finale move by making the speech so weird. But it feels icky. And also, destined for failure with child at risk. I wonder if studio execs intervened (to make them more decidedly together and happy?)or how a movie ends up with an ending like that. It is, by far, the worst end of a romantic comedy I can think of. Totally cliche and creepy all at once.

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  1. I will contest two of these.

    Brigadoon doesn't make the list because it's premise is non-functional from the get go. The village has been asleep for two centuries, but from the villagers' point of view, if today is Wednesday, the curse was put on them on Monday. They haven't been at this for a week. Not even a work week. But they're presented as if they've been at this forever, with ample opportunity to develop new folkways and customs to suit their new supernatural situation.

    Baloney. It's been two days. The villagers are still wandering around grieving all their dead friends and relatives and boggling in disbelief that this is really happening.

    Holy Grail. Yes, you remember the ending correctly. At the moment of the great battle, police pull up and arrest everybody for killing the academic guy who was doing commentary. Cut to some cheesy organ music. Hardcore/new fans watch the music for what seems like hours, wondering if anything else is going to happen. It isn't.

    But MPATHG is basically and extended version of the show with a very loosely linked series of sketches, and part of the Python shtick was to actively reject the set-up, gag, gag, big payoff cadence for comedy sketches. Yeah, everybody remembers spam, and dead parrot, and lumberjack , etc. What they tend to forget is that not one of the classic python sketches has a real capper or final payoff-- they just slide on into something else. So the fact that this movie doesn't have an ending IS the gag.