Monday, May 18, 2015

Netflix Mail Day Movie Review: "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them" (2014)

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Movie"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them"
Director: Ned Benson
Year: 2014
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

A married couple, Conor (James McAvoy) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain), struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives and relationship after the death of their child and Eleanor's subsequent suicide attempt.

"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" is an experimental art film that ran the film festival circuit as two different versions with the alternate titles "Him" and "Her." Each of those versions were told from a different point of view as interpreted by each of the main characters. "Her" is told from Eleanor's point of view, and "Him" is from the viewpoint of Conor. At the time, the only version available to us on DVD was a third version of the film subtitled "Them." "Them" is a combined re-edit of both perspectives, taking two roughly hour and half long movies and combining them into one film that's just slightly over 2 hours. Unfortunately, this version feels more like 4 hours long. The film opens up briefly showing Conor and Eleanor on a date where they dine and dash and then proceed ti make out in public, directly juxtaposed next to to Eleanor's suicide attempt. This jarring set of opening scenes sets the mood for what is yet to come and it's a bit of a melancholy misery. There very little in the way of knowing how much time has passed and it's frustrating from the start. The director, Ned Benson, makes Eleanor's reasons for her suicide attempt a secret, and this is far from all. The director also makes Eleanor's relationship status with Conor a secret, and all of the other secondary characters either intricately or casually involved inexplicably tap dance around the subjects of marriage, child bearing, love and her reasons for almost taking her own life. With dreary subject matters like this, you really have to be in the mood to watch a down film because this is certainly it. Alone, we get glimpses of how Eleanor and Conor deal separately with their grief in a seemingly fine way, but when they are together, they are a fucking mess of a couple who feed off of each other's misery. As audience members, though disjointed, you really do feel for Conor and Eleanor at the end of the film. It would be hard to salvage and recover your relationship from something as traumatic as what they went through, but the context as a whole isn't enough to explain this gratifyingly.

Have you ever been at a social gathering where you walk into a group mid-conversation and since you didn't hear the beginning of it, you stand there listening with a dumbfounded look on your face, hoping you can pick up just enough information to realize what the others are discussing?? That's what it felt like watching this movie, as if we missed the beginning of the conversation and were stuck watching in a confused haze in the dark about certain elements that are key to continuing on in a fair manner. Luckily, since I have a knack for looking at people's hands (which seems weird but isn't really weird so stop judging me), we figured out what was going on long before the movie reveals it as Conor's wedding ring was a dead giveaway. It's quite ridiculous to hold back this information and serves only to hurt one's perception and understanding of the characters. The film moves from one melodramatic scene to the next where characters exchange philosophical quips about finding out who they are and what they want really want out of life, which would be just fine under the right circumstances, only this wasn't it. Though Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy give really great performances and are part of a brilliant cast, their goodness simply doesn't add up and the film overall is marred by poor pacing and a disjointed, poorly told narrative, which hurt our enjoyment of the film. Maybe watching "Him" or "Her" would be a better course of action, but from what we saw of "Them," it didn't exactly leave us chomping at the bit to see either of these other films. Perhaps, instead of attempting to make two separate movies for art's sake, Benson and co. should have focused on making one excellent movie instead of a gimmicky two parts of a whole, which was inevitably put into a third, incomplete and inaccurate movie.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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