'Beginners Guide' doles out laughs

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

A Beginner's Guide To Endings involves suicide and a whole family doomed to die young.

Needless to say, it's a comedy.

Harvey Keitel stars here as Duke White, gambler, womanizer and all-round heel. Duke is also the father of five sons, although he seems to have signed up the three oldest for early graves. Something he did when the boys were little has put them in harm's way; faced with the possibility of limited time left on earth, each son responds differently to his shortened life expectancy.

Cal (Scott Caan), who loves the ladies, decides to seek out the one woman who, as he puts it, 'got away'. Miranda (Tricia Helfer, hilarious here) is strong-minded, beautiful, and probably a sociopath; she's got a heap of dead husbands already, and pursuing her means Cal really gets to mix with the lunatic fringe.

Oldest son Nuts (Jason Jones) is a boxing promoter; his solution is to get even deeper dug in with the grifters in his business. Third brother Jacob (Paulo Costanzo), the only member of the White family with a bona fide job, decides to face death by taking all the risks he never had the courage for in the past. As ads for the movie reveal, that does involve Elvis impersonation and a trip over Niagara Falls.

The strong cast includes J.K. Simmons as a local preacher who tries to guide the White boys in their time of crisis, Wendy Crewson as Duke's first wife and Stephen McHattie as a crazed boxing manager.

A Beginner's Guide to Endings is crude, violent and extremely funny. The writing is wicked, the action is completely demented (doesn't hurt that the story is set in Niagara Falls) and there's no shortage of comedic gifts on display. The film, which is Jonathan Sobol's directorial debut, premiered at TIFF.

For all its macho muscle-flexing, A Beginner's Guide To Endings has a smiley face where sibling relationships are concerned. Sobol's next movie, The Black Marks, is likewise about brothers, not to mention low life and high art. Something to look forward to.

This film is rated 14A


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