Color me surprised when I found out that ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’ wasn’t about a girl who, you know, disappeared. Maybe it was all the ‘Gone Girl’ hoopla that was escalating around the time that some people were starting to whisper about this film, but I was under the impression that the title character, Eleanor, disappeared. I mean, I guess she kind of does, since her husband doesn’t know where she is for like thirty minutes of the movie, but she never really disappears since we, the audience, know where she is at all times and she’s never deliberately ‘hiding’, she’s just not at her house.
But this is possibly all Harvey Weinstein’s fault.
Yes, ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’ is yet another film that Harvey butchered, taking what was supposed to be an elaborate character study of two sides of a particular story and condensing it to what he considered a more palatable presentation. That means that two films (‘Him’ and ‘Her’) were combined into one film (‘Them’) and the editing left us with a very incomplete and unsatisfying film.
I’m trying to envision what the combined feel of ‘Him’ and ‘Her’ would be, but I’m struggling to care through this underdeveloped bore of a hybrid film.
The film tells the story of a couple who are so much in love and yet so much apart thanks to the horrific loss of their son. How he died is never broached and it really isn’t important, because this film is all about the handling of that grief and the strain it can put on a relationship. So, in the film’s opening scenes we see a distraught Eleanor plunging into the ocean in an apparent attempted suicide. She’s pulled to safety and apparently it is then that she disappears from her husband’s life, taking refuge in the home of her intrusive parents. Her husband, Conor, is desperate to find her and soon he does. She isn’t ready to see him, but he continues to pursue her, to stalk her almost, until she finally decides to hear him out, to talk, to see where they are and if they can work through their grief together.
I’m sorry, but this movie just does not work.
Now, I cannot speak for the separate parts, and I’ve heard that when viewed as ‘Him’ and ‘Her’, this is a beautiful and heartfelt story, but in this distorted and hacked amalgam, this film has absolutely no impact. We barely get to know Conor at all, and the reasons for their separation and lack of ability to work things through hardly registers, which is a problem. We can’t connect to these characters at all, to their struggle or plight because none of it feels developed. Instead, we’re left with a lot of open ended questions that feel like they just lay there in empty space. Because of the back and forth ‘forced’ edit, many of the character’s actions feel unrealistic and pretty distracting, to be honest.
Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy deliver very good performances that are let down by the edit given the film because they possess no real chemistry here, given the amount of time they are allowed to develop their character’s relationship. I never felt anything towards Conor at all, in particular, who seems to have been edited out of the story the most (like, he basically has the same conversation 50 times in this movie). Eleanor is a great character, and this is the first time I think I’ve really been impressed with Chastain, who cycles her character’s grief and desire to reconcile very well, but the way that the story is butchered leaves her feeling like a very incomplete character. Her sporadic emotional shifts made no sense in the confines of the film’s structure.
I feel bad for Ned Benson. This was his first film, and it generated a LOT of buzz for the whole of its parts were considered beautiful. Why Harvey decided this needed to be butchered for a larger audience is beyond me, since this film never even made it past a limited release. It’s not like he actually promoted this film or tried to make anything of it. He bought it, butchered it and then threw it away.
Oh, and calling this romantic is just misleading.
C-. I'm giving this a little credit for trying something and placing mos the blame on Harvey, which is why I didn't give this a D, but MY GOD is this film a far cry from what it should/could/was supposed to be.