Review: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby


Director:Ned Benson

Cast:James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis

Running Time:122.00


It's a rare complaint these days, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby needed to be longer. In fact, it used to be. The film premiered as two separate entries at last year's Toronto Film Festival, subtitled Him and Her. The cut that's being released to U.S. theaters is subtitled Them and trims about 70 minutes from both films into one movie that's often achingly beautiful but still missing something. 

While this version features tremendous acting, particularly from Jessica Chastain in the title role, much of the backstory that drives the ongoing tragedy of the film gets obscured, which leads to a frustrating experience. Still, at the core is a powerful drama about the gulf that separates the depressed and grief-stricken from their loved ones.

Befitting a movie that's a patchwork of two separate entities, Eleanor Rigby plays out mostly in vignettes featuring Eleanor or Connor (James McAvoy), but only occasionally both. Briefly we see their happier moments, but most of the film deals with the aftermath of Eleanor's suicide attempt.

Unfortunately, there's nothing profound said or catharsis experienced. There's just two people fumbling towards the future as best they can. That might be more realistic, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby requires a big investment on the part of the viewer, and a lack of resolution feels a bit disappointing. And while Chastain acts the hell out of this thing, her character's actions can be a bit inscrutable since she always puts up walls to everyone trying to help. 

The movie's best scenes involve the two leads just trying to carry a conversation that won't wreck them. Eleanor befriends the professor of her class (Viola Davis, effortlessly great) and Connor shoots the breeze with his best pal (Bill Hader). In some ways, these two have the more difficult roles, because not only do they have to remain pillars for their friends on the verge of falling apart, they also have to supply the film with its much-needed comic relief.

All of the actors do exemplary work. They really just needed more breathing room. I get the feeling if we got to see all of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby "” and the two parts will allegedly be released later this fall "” we'd be seeing a great film and not just a good one.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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