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Lives Interact in ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – There was something blank within “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them,” although it dealt with the issues of loss, family and reconciliation. The all star cast, including Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and William Hurt, add their performing spins to the story.

Character dramas with some juice is a rare bird in the cinema, so “Rigby” gets points for adding some emotion to this film going experience. But the theme of loss and the hope for redemption becomes redundant as the film progresses, and it goes from one scene to another, pairing the characters in conversation as if they’re in a therapy session, with none of those talks hitting the jugular vein of revelation. This probably mirrors real life more closely, but doesn’t resolve the drama of the screenplay. However, the film is a worthwhile happening – two more films were done about the main couple in their points of view (“Him” and “Her”) – and the performance of the ensemble cast delivers the story at a high level.

Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain), a woman in her thirties, is shown riding her bike on a bridge in New York City, when suddenly she gets off and jumps over the railing. Her suicide attempt is denied when a passerby alerts a rescue team, and after her hospital recovery she moves back with her parents (William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert) to recover from the event.

Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy
Conor (James McAvoy) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) in ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them’
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

It turns out that Eleanor is estranged from her husband Conor (James McAvoy), following a tragic situation in their marriage. As part of her recovery, she goes back to a local college and seeks counsel from a Professor (Viola Davis), while Conor tries to make a go in the restaurant business with partner Stuart (Bill Hader). All the folks participating in the couple’s adventures percolate around the idea that what happened to them needs to be understood.

The characters check off in an archetype “list” – recovering victim, best friend, flawed parents, sassy academic, single mother sister – but the actors bring more to those roles than what is written for them, and that’s what makes the movie sing. The steam runs out because the couple’s secrets aren’t all that revelatory, and the film gets a bit aimless and repetitive toward the conclusion. This is a small complaint, but prevents the overall product from being more savory.

Jessica Chastain is a fine actress, with a glorious and beautiful camera presence, but like her previous effort in “Zero Dark Thirty,” her looks work against her in “Rigby.” She plays better as a “leading lady” representation rather than a pure character, because her glamour at times can’t match the tragic downtown. In some scenes it became distracting, and instead of coming off as a younger Julianne Moore in tackling the character, she sways more toward Julia Roberts – too distinct in her look to pull off the character aspect of the role.

James McAvoy’s performance as Conor never really gets off the ground, but does show some fire in his scenes with the great Clarán Hinds, who portrays his Dad. These brief exchanges are some of the best in the film, as the world weariness of Hind’s necessary interpretation of the events clashed with the tragedy. This is in contrast to William Hurt, as Eleanor’s Dad, as his hangdog demeanor is similar to Chastain in their scenes. There is less energy when they’re together, even as he dispenses wise hope-for-healing advice.

Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy
They Meet Again in ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them’
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

The small supporting roles are well cast. Jess Weixler as Eleanor’s single Mom sister brings a necessary sardonic distraction with her dating woes. Isabelle Huppert is a wine drinking, detached French mother to the girls, and is awkward in dealing with the bereft Eleanor. And Bill Hader, right off of his turn in “The Skeleton Twins,” gets to be the “best friend” of Conor without overdoing it, and provides vital comic relief.

There is something about this film that manufactures a detachment equivalent to the French mother, when combined with Jessica Chastain and the way it was presented by writer/director Ned Benson. The story of Eleanor and Conor had value, but when appraised it’s not as rich as it could have been.

“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” continues its release in Chicago on September 19th. Featuring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Clarán Hinds, Jess Weixler, Isabelle Huppert and William Hurt. Written and directed by Ned Benson. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2014 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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