Interesting setup. The Man sits with a tattered notebook in the last booth inside an innocuous diner. People stream in constantly to meet with him, each wanting something they feel they cannot get on their own. The Man makes deals with these people; after consulting with the notebook, he gives them a task. They report back on their progress and if they complete the task, their wish is fulfilled. The Man tells them their wish may still be granted if they don’t complete the task, but there is no guarantee in that case.
Caveat Emptor echoes loudly when you hear the wishes. Likely you’ll raise an eyebrow to the spoken requests versus what these people actually want. In the beginning you might believe The Man has an uncanny knack for enabling people to help themselves. However, as the stories evolve, intersect and the effects of carrying out their tasks have some undesirable effects, you might think something more sinister is in play. I was never certain which was the case but that is likely the point – it depends on your perspective; whether you believe in fate, that you make your own opportunities or something in between.
A young girl wants to be prettier, her task is to rob a bank. To prepare she buys a gun and starts learning about how to carry out the crime. In the process she meets a young man who robs banks and they develop a relationship. The young man, coincidentally, is the son of another of The Man’s clients, a police officer who wants to catch a bank robber, who is, as it turns out, his son. The young girl? She changes her wish after meeting the young man, since really what she wanted was to be in love, she was only using looks as a means to that end.
There isn’t much in the way of cinematography since the entire piece takes place in the diner. You never see The Man’s clients execute any of their tasks, you only hear the details when they report back. Xander Berkeley does a great job as The Man, stoically handing out some gruesome tasks, seemingly knowing the outcome beforehand. Berkeley’s road-weary expressions and the detached ambivalence in his voice give one the sense that he has been facilitating wish delivery for far too long. His marked reluctance to answer questions from the increasingly curious Waitress, speak to The Man having unfulfilled wishes himself.
Post-watch I learned Booth at the End was originally released as a 2-season set of webisodes by FX. I streamed them in movie form from Amazon but I think Amazon’s offering was just Season 2. Also interesting, Berkeley’s real-life wife, Sarah Clarke, both of whom anchored several seasons of 24, makes an appearance as a nun who loses her faith and to restore it, she must become pregnant.
If you’re in the mood for a cinematic puzzle involving multiple, overlapping story lines, all which pose philosophically interesting questions with no definitive answers, Booth at the End is a good watch.