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“the disappearance of eleanor rigby”

Disappearance of Eleanor RigbyIf you’re going to invoke a classic Beatles song in your movie title, not to mention a reference hinting of mystery and intrigue, you’ve got to know that audiences are going to go in with high expectations.

And that, when they see the movie itself, they’re probably going to be disappointed.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby isn’t a terrible movie. It’s just frustrating because it could have been so good.

The movie starts off invitingly, with a young and adorable couple, Conor (James McAvoy) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain), sitting in a restaurant, realizing they can’t pay the bill, then making a run for it. They’re happy, carefree and obviously in love. “There’s only one heart in this body,” he tells her while they’re lying together in the grass. “Have mercy on me.”

Of course, she doesn’t, and suddenly she’s standing on the Manhattan Bridge, thinking about jumping.

What the hell? “Did I miss something?” you’ll ask yourself.

Rest assured you didn’t. Over the course of two hours, you learn about the tragedy that tore Eleanor and Conor apart, but it’s a painful process that involves lots of choppy scenes, uninspired dialogue and close-ups of expressionless faces often staring into space.

Because one of those faces is Jessica Chastain’s, though, the whole thing is way easier to sit through. She is sooo talented and her mere presence onscreen demands attention. It’s impossible to take your eyes off her. Although Eleanor’s grief is palpable, the scenes never go deep enough to resonate.

I think the problem is that director/writer Ned Benson actually created two other films, Him and Her, each focusing on the story from that particular character’s point of view. Because the studio didn’t think audiences would watch for six hours, he also came up with this version, which is being released as Them.

Unfortunately, in this case, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. I’d love to see Him and Her – particularly Her – because they would dig deeper into Conor and Eleanor’s perspectives. I’d like to learn more about Eleanor’s relationship with her mother (Isabelle Huppert), who is never seen without a glass of wine and who matter-of-factly admits to Eleanor, “I never wanted to be a mother.”

Eleanor’s relationships with her sister, her dad and her teacher (which reunites Chastain with Viola Davis, her co-star in The Help ) could also be fascinating once they’re more fully developed. Chastain is inarguably one of the best actresses of her generation, and this movie is a tease because, with a better script, her performance could be Oscar-worthy.

McAvoy, too, deserves a chance to show what he’s capable of. When he considers cheating on Eleanor, and he says, “I can already taste the regret,” you can glimpse the layers of emotion yearning to come out.

The least the filmmakers could have done is played the title song at some point. Right now, the lyric most likely to end up haunting them is, “Nobody came.”


  1. I go nuts watching movies like this.

  2. I have never heard of this movie but now I am so intrigued to see it for myself! Thanks for sharing

  3. Thanks for the review, it does not sound like my cup of tea!

  4. I want to see this – thanks for the excellent review. Now I can’t get the song out of my head…

  5. Between your review and the trailer, I can positively say I will not be watching this. Even the preview dripps dullness and lack of depth for me.

  6. Well, cross one off my list. Thanks for this…

  7. I had never even heard of this, but since it was so bad, I won’t be seeing it.

  8. I feel pretty pathetic saying I’ve never heard of this movie. But that’s my life these days. From your review, it sounds sort of Nicholas Sparks-ish. If the rain continues this weekend, I just might find myself watching it.

  9. I’ve never heard of this movie, and now I guess I won’t even go see it.

  10. I haven’t heard of the movie either (like the commenter above) and thank you so much for sparing me the pain of sitting through it. I hate when directors botch what could’ve been a great movie!

  11. Wow. I’m let down just hearing the review. That’s a shame, because I usually love movies like this.

  12. I’ve heard of this movie and the title originally piqued my interest but after reading this, I’m not sure I want to invest my time in it. Thank you for being honest!

  13. Hmm I think I’d still like to see this movie myself. I agree that it sounded like it would be super good!

  14. Just read a review that notes similar issues regarding how it was really shot as two films that have now been spliced into one. I really like McAvoy, so I’ll for sure go see this film .

  15. Definitely sounds like a great movie. One to add to my list!

  16. Too bad it wasn’t a home run. Jessica Chastain is usually so amazing!

  17. First time I have heard of this movie! Now I have the Beatles song in my head!

  18. It’s a shame this movie never gets off the ground, because with this cast it had an incredible start. I’ll wait for the DVD…

  19. this would be a great date night movie but I too would probalby wait for cable.

  20. This is my first time hearing of this movie. It sounds interesting though.

  21. I had no inkling a movie was made with a Beatles song as a reference point. Pity it fell short.

  22. thanks for such an honest review!

  23. I have never heard of it before. I am not sure if it is a movie I would like.

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