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THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM (review)

disappearance_of_eleanor_rigby_ver2THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM
Written and Directed by Ned Benson
Starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy
 
Conor Ludlow: Y’know, before you, I had no idea who I was. Then, when we were together, I thought I had it all figured out. Now I’m just back to wondering again.
 

Eleanor Rigby: Well, when you figure it out, tell me how.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM is basically the disappearance of almost all of the elements that made this film’s original incarnation so great. If you’re not already familiar with this film’s history, it was initially two films, HIM and HER. Both films told the same story about the same couple dealing with the dissolution of their 7-year relationship and marriage. One was told from his prospective and one was told from hers. These two films have now been amalgamated into THEM and, while the central performances from Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy remain intact and still incredible, much of the commentary on perspective is entirely lost. Separate, their stories were unique; together, their story is far too familiar and far too muddied to be meaningful.

eleanor rigby 1

When we first meet Conor and Eleanor (McAvoy and Chastain), they are blissfully in love. They kiss in a park as fireflies dance around them, as if also in celebration of their beautiful love. That was then and this is now though. When we next see Eleanor, she is about to jump off of a bridge. Something terrible happened between them but we don’t know what. We know that they aren’t together; we know that they have both moved back in with their parents (fantastic supporting performances from Ciarin Hinds, Isabelle Hupert and William Hurt); and we know that they are both struggling with, but trying to, move on with their lives. There are hints at what transpired between them, and we do eventually find out what that was, but until we do, we are left to live in the aftermath of their great love and devastating split. To answer the question from the song that became Eleanor’s namesake, this, living through these kinds of hardships, is where all the lonely people come from.

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All three versions of the film were shot and edited by first time filmmaker (now three-time filmmaker), Ned Benson. I cannot understand why he would want to mess with the perspective that made his original two films so singularly impressive, but it is good to know that the man behind the new version is the same man who envisioned them originally (and not Harvey Weinstein, who is distributing the film and who has been known to cut films to make them more accessible). That being said, THEM is a less confident, more confused film than HIM and HER are. Given the story at hand, the film seems cut for laughs at times and therefore undercuts the seriousness of their predicament. These same laughs were present in the original versions but condensed like this, the film almost plays like a very indie romantic comedy at times, instead of the real, genuine romance it once was. Without the breadth of the separate perspectives, THEM often takes on different, perhaps unintentional meanings, and unfortunately, without the gimmick, it just feels a little lost.

Editor’s note: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: HIM and HER will be released in select theatres later this fall.

3 sheep

 

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