Review: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

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The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby posterWhat happens when a director makes two movies from different viewpoints using the same plotline, then compiles them into one project? Director Ned Benson made two versions of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby -- one from the viewpoint of Conor (Him) and one from Eleanor's point of view (Her). If, as I did, you expect the compilation of the two films (Them) to include these differing takes, sorry to say that is not the case.

Instead of the experimental feeling the trailer hints at, the film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them shares similarities with other grief-filled indie relationship dramas (Rabbit Hole and Rachel Getting Married specifically come to mind). What sets it slightly apart is the rhythm of this couple's tragic story and the intensity of the actors' performances.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) plays the Eleanor Rigby of the title, holing up in her parents' house after a failed suicide attempt. Dark eyeliner coats her eyes as she dons variations of the same outfit - a light shirt over a dark bra - with such costuming screaming her sadness (especially in comparison to the fresh face and sundresses we see her wear in flashbacks).

Other elements that overtly hint at Eleanor's unhappiness include the ambient, meditative score by Son Lux, punctuated by the cheesy pop songs she loves and the classical music her mother (French actress Isabelle Huppert) listens to. Her sister Katy (Jess Weixler, The Good Wife, Teeth) and Eleanor stay in their childhood rooms, decorated by comics such as "Little Nemo in Slumberland." On her way to the subway, Eleanor walks past statements scrawled on building walls; I probably tried too hard to understand the hidden message of the set design (and I don't think there is one, really).

Eleanor won't talk to her husband Conor (James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland), so he resorts to following her around. "Can I keep stalking you?" he asks, when an incident finally gets her attention. Ick. Conor is mystified at Eleanor's harsher reaction to the tragic event that hit the couple. He's working to keep his bar afloat, helped and hindered by his chef and friend Stuart (Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live).

As Conor turns to his father (Irish actor Ciaran Hinds plays his dad, and yet they both speak in American accents) for counsel, Eleanor befriends a professor peer of her father's (Viola Davis, Doubt, The Help). Davis brightens this film with her caustic dialogue, and her scenes with Chastain were some of my favorite in the film. Rounding out the cast is William Hurt as Eleanor's father, who named her after the Beatles tune.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby includes a few powerful moments between the cast members: a sisters' night out, fathers doling out advice, and a mother's remembrance of past glory. I'm not sure that's enough to make it memorable. Benson's idea of providing the viewer with two sides of a story is muted in this amalgam. Perhaps Him and Her will come on the DVD later on and we can see what his original vision really was. I doubt it was this final product.