Tuesday, February 3, 2015


TrustMovies may be selling this unusual compilation short, since THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY arrives in a single and complete package that includes all three versions: Her, Him and the one titled Them, which, I imagine, includes at least some of both the "her" and "him" stories. Because time is fleeting and I seem to have less and less or it at my disposal, I decided to view the Them version first, and then, if I liked it well enough, to move on to the two individual accounts. Not to keep you in undue suspense, Them -- which runs just over two hours -- proved tiresome enough to keep me from further viewing.

Written and directed by Ned Benson, pictured at left, who moves up from making short films to making a much-more-than-full-length one, the movie contains the kind of dialog that, despite the best attempt of a crack cast, often rings false, alternating between cliché and pomposity. Early on we're told that "Tragedy is a foreign country." Well, it ain't. Japan and Afghanistan are foreign countries (unless you happen to have been born and raised there, of course). Even taken metaphorically, the sentence can only remind of you of a much better one, "The past is a foreign country," from L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between (book and movie), which actually resonates on various levels.

Later in the film, à propos the death a very young child, the hero is told, "A shooting star lasts only a second, but aren't you glad to have seen it?" This is "poetic," all right, but it pretty much misses the entire point of the wreckage that occurs because of that death. And then there's "family": Notes mother to daughter at one point along the way, "I don't want you to take our relationship too personally."

Mr. Benson's dialog is full of this sort of nonsense, and given the excellent work of a fine cast -- including Jessica Chastain (above), James McAvoy (below), Ciarán Hinds, William Hurt (at left, two photos below), Isabelle Huppert (center left, two photos below), Viola Davis, Jess Weixler (at right, two photos below), Bill Hader and Nina Arianda (at bottom, left) -- the performances raise our enjoyment level, while keeping our minds off some of the sillier give-and-take.

Even the use of the old Beatles' Eleanor Rigby song for the movie's title and the lead character's name is good for a so-what joke about character history and little more. It's simply misjudged, like much else in this movie.

But there's another big problem, too. Everything here is finally about the death of that child. Unfortunately this seems to rule out the film's being about much of anything else, including character, history and the marriage in question. We learn so little else about these people that they remain attractive ciphers mouthing pompous proclamations. Everything is surface: employment, desires, relationships. Yes, a child's death is indeed major, but the environment that surrounds it must be brought to deep and meaningful life if we are to be made to care.

Perhaps the Him and Her sections solve this problem. I'm afraid I don't have the time to invest to find out. If you do, please watch and then advise me. Meanwhile, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby in all its incarnations -- from Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company -- hits DVD, Blu-ray and On-Demand today, February 3, after an early digital download window that opened up last month. With the Blu-ray and DVD, you can see all three versions for the price of one. 

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