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.