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A Beginner’s Guide to Endings …

Relentlessly paced and mostly unfunny comedy has style to spare.

“A Beginner’s Guide to Endings … ” starts well, ironically, but expires long before the home stretch. This relentlessly paced and mostly unfunny comedy — about three brothers who are told they’re dying and try to check off items on their bucket lists — has style to spare, as writer-director Jonathan Sobol splits, freezes and otherwise manipulates the frame at will. But the showy aesthetic proves wearying, and as the brothers, Scott Caan, Jason Jones and Paulo Costanzo are unmemorable. Harvey Keitel’s extended cameo appearance as the siblings’ dad gives the Canadian indie a patina of class that probably won’t be rewarded with widespread sales.

Somewhere around Niagara Falls, Duke (Keitel) fails to hang himself but later succeeds, figuring he’d rather perish than see any harm come to his kids. Zippy dialogue adds to the sense of a noirish farce on amphetamines, but Sobol’s pic is too speedy for its own good, failing to establish characters with adequate care. Caan’s Cal plans to marry a femme fatale; Costanzo’s pugilist prepares to step into the ring; Jones’ Elvis-impersonating bro buys a ’72 El Camino; and the viewer wishes for a quicker conclusion.

A Beginner’s Guide to Endings …

Canada

  • Production: An Entertainment One presentation of a Buck Prods., Darius Films production. Produced by Nicholas Tabarrok. Executive producer, Sean Buckley, Bryan Gliserman, Tim Merkel, John Kozman. Directed, written by Jonathan Sobol.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Samy Inayeh; editor, Geoff Ashenhurst; music, Grayson Matthews; production designer, Svjetlana Jaklenec; set decorator, Jessamyn Horsman; costume designer, Candice Beuckx; sound (Dolby Digital), Derek Oxley; special effects, Dave Hill; special effects coordinator, Warren Appleby; stunt coordinator, Eric Bryson; associate producer, Leah Jaunzems; assistant director, Pazz Neglia; casting, Nancy Klopper, Stephanie Gorin. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentations), Sept. 14, 2010. Running time: 92 MIN.
  • With: With: Scott Caan, Jason Jones, Paulo Costanzo, Tricia Helfer, J.K. Simmons, Harvey Keitel, Jared Keeso, Siam Yu, Wendy Crewson, Allison Graham, Stephen McHattie, Horace Abel, Horace Fox.
  • Music By: