FlixChatter Review – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

EleanorRigbyTitle

It seems that a straight love-themed drama is hard to come in Hollywood. Instead we see romance as part of another genre, i.e. romantic comedy, romantic thriller, romantic sci-fi and so on. It’s even more rare to see a love story in a three-film format, not a trilogy mind-you, but the same story told from three different perspective [as you can read in my spotlight here] where director Ned Besson shot three films from his and her perspective, then created a third – more marketable – version, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.

So who’s miss Eleanor Rigby? You might be inclined to think she ‘disappears’ in the same sense as Gone Girl, but no that’s not the case here. But the title makes sense as the film progresses, which is unfolding in an unhurried pace that is far from boring. It opens with a gorgeous young couple, Eleanor and Conor, running off without paying their bill at a restaurant. It’s apparent the two are blissfully in love, which makes you wonder all the more what happen to such a seemingly jubilant marriage. Besson didn’t immediately fill in everything about the incident that trigger the relationship’s collapse, which can be at times frustrating but it also made me appreciate the journey with the characters. 

EleanorRigbyStills1I read afterwards that Besson apparently had a relationship with the lead actress, Jessica Chastain, and that in a way the story is somewhat biographical. Perhaps that’s why I think Chastain is so perfect in the role, though I think she would be anyway without their history. She’s the kind of actress whose got such a captivating screen presence, both strong and vulnerable, as well as being able to remain likable even if her character isn’t always so. In fact, at times I feel like perhaps she’s being unreasonable. What could be so horrible that made her decide to take such drastic measures? I feel that Eleanor chooses to drown in her own grief despite being surrounded by such a supportive family, which I think is still a privilege as not many people would have such a privilege. Yet I couldn’t dislike her and I attribute that to Chastain’s soulful performance.

On the other side is James McAvoy as Conor, the *jilted* husband who tries to win her back. McAvoy is such a capable actor, I always think that given his resemblance to Gerard Butler, the two could be brothers, but he’s the kind of performer I wish Butler could be. McAvoy could juggle big-budget Summer movies like X-Men Days of Future Past, in an iconic role no less, yet he can still *disappear* [pardon the pun] into an entirely different role here. Like Eleanor, Conor is a flawed character who struggles with his crumbling marriage as well as his frosty relationship with his dad. I’d have to say I prefer McAvoy in dramatic fares and I hope he does more stuff like this where he plays a regular guy.

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I feel that under less capable hands, both Conor & Eleanor might not have been as captivating nor as convincing in conveying deep emotional heartbreak. Even in quieter moments, both actors can hold your attention and they definitely get you involved in their story. It definitely helps having a solid supporting cast, I especially like Viola Davis as a college professor who became Eleanor’s unlikely confidant, as well as Ciaran Hinds & William Hurt as the father of Conor & Elinor, respectively. Bill Hader provides somewhat of a comic relief as McAvoy’s BFF. He’s ok but I feel that their scenes felt too much like a traditional *ingredient* of a typical rom-com, so it feels like a weak link in an otherwise unconventional drama.

It’s a small quibble though, the film does a lot of things right in that it really got you involved in the characters’ journey. As I’ve been married for some time to my college sweetheart, it definitely made me think about what I’d do if this circumstance were to happen to me. There is a moment in their apartment where barely any word is spoken, but it was such a heart-wrenching and delicate moment between the two. Yet I don’t feel manipulated into feeling something that’s superficial, there’s no sweeping music to tug your heartstrings, it was all the result of being invested in the story. That said, the music/songs are quite enjoyable and fit the theme of the film nicely. As I mentioned before, I love that Besson took his time to reveal the incident that propel the story. He give you some subtle hints throughout so you can take a guess what happens but the details remain open-ended.

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Overall I’m impressed by Besson’s feature film debut, and applaud him for trying something different w/ the format. I like how intimate and personal this story feels, brought out by authentic and compelling performances of the two main actors. The cinematography of NYC is gorgeous and it shows a warm, even personal side of the city that complements the story. I’d be inclined to check out the His/Her version when they’re out on rental, that’d give me more insight into both characters and their story. It’s too bad that reportedly the film didn’t do well at all at the box office (per The Wrap) as I’d love more people to see this film. I was hoping that Besson, as well as McAvoy & Chastain get some nominations come award season, but that seems unlikely. In any case, I highly recommend this if you’re in the mood for a character-driven drama with splendid performances.

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Thoughts on this one? If you have seen it, I’d love to hear what you think.

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45 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

  1. I really want to see this but the version I want to see is the Him and Her versions. I don’t want to see the shorter version that is from the hands of Harvey Scissorhands.

    1. Ahah, Harvey Scissorhands. I guess he deserves that moniker but this one wasn’t edited by him, and I think it made sense to create a combined version of the film though I’m certainly interested in seeing the His/Her versions as well.

  2. Ted S.

    I’ll definitely give this a rent, not something I want to go see at a theater because they’ll be annoying people there who for sure will complain about the pacing of the movie. I’m not surprised at all that it didn’t perform well at the box office, let’s face it the general audiences aren’t going to go see a movie like this. If there aren’t any crude humor, explosions or car chases, most won’t even go near it.

    1. It’s really too bad that films that don’t have car chases/shootouts/explosions or aren’t adapted from YA novels can’t find an audience. It’s just a shame that people miss out on an engaging, well-written love story w/ excellent performances. Ah well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  3. This will be such a great experience.. I hope I see it soon and well, James McAvoy is so great! Though I’m not a fan of Chastain but I don’t mind her so I won’t skip this for any reasons.

      1. We’ll see.. I’m not too fond of Chastain so I tend to dislike her characters most of the time. Maybe Elanor will be the exception to the rule. Who knows. But the trilogy aspect of it is probably the most interesting.

        1. Hmmm, so I take it you’ve seen Chastain in a lot of films? I don’t know if Eleanor will be the exception as her character is not entirely likable, some might even say she’s moping around a lot. I do think her character is supposed to be that way, drowned in grief, so I’d say Chastain portrayed her very well.

          1. Not many but her roles in 0D30 and Tree of Life, which essentially were praised, I didn’t enjoy at all. And well, The Help left me emotionless as well.. so, I mean, 3 roles of 3 have been meh.. does that count as an opinion? 😀

            1. Ha..ha.. yes it counts of course! I hear ya, and while I like her in all three films, I totally understand why others don’t. I kinda feel the same about Rooney Mara whom I’ve seen in about three films so far and all of them left me cold. So no accounting for taste I guess 😀 But hey, if you like McAvoy then this film is still well worth your time. He is SO good, I’d love to see him in more dramatic roles where he plays a regular guy as he’s so darn convincing, not to mention gorgeous!

    1. Ahah, Harvey Scissorhands! No I don’t think he ruined it, I actually get why he’d want a third version combining both viewpoints. I really enjoyed this mostly for the performances, and both McAvoy & Chastain are sublime.

  4. It felt like there needed to be more here for us to actually grasp a firm grasp onto in order to be affected by. Oh well. Guess we’ll just have to wait for both respective versions to come out later this year. Good review Ruth.

    1. Hello Dan! Are you back blogging again man? Y’know I thought they did a good job in crafting enough of a story here to make me care. I was skeptical at first about this combined version but I ended up liking it a lot.

  5. Great review! Very much interested in seeing this as well. I agree with you both of these actors are so very capable and soulful and perhaps why the movie worked. You are right McAvoy could totally be Gerry’s brother. Have they ever done anything together? After you were done seeing this did you feel like it lived up to your expectations? I know you had been wanting to see this one, that’s why I ask, I am curious if you felt relieved, justified, etc?

    1. Hello Queen Mel! I think a certain actors’ performances can truly elevate a story, it certainly does in this case. I came in expecting to see great acting and they definitely delivered! As for the film itself, it was better than I expected actually. I was a bit worried the combined story wouldn’t be as engaging than the individual His/Her version but I think the editing was pretty good, esp. considering Besson is a first-time director.

      I don’t think McAvoy and Gerry ever worked together but I’ve always thought they look so much alike! They played together at a charity soccer match and they truly looked like they’re brothers.

      1. Lady Ruth my dahhhhling! Glad you liked it and it lived up to all your expectations and more. I mean really can you ask for anything more of a movie? I love feeling redeemed after wanting to see a movie for so long. I definitely want to see this one.

        I am surprised they haven’t! And you are right they do kinda look alike. 🙂

        1. I took a half day off for it as it was an AM screening, but it was well worth it! I felt like I was inside the character’s head at times, and at times I was so frustrated w/ Eleanor I wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip, ahah. I hope you’ll check it out girl!!

          I actually made a movie pitch where they play brothers, believe it or not!! With Timothy Dalton as their dad, he..he.. Yes my fangirl-ing goes wild sometimes 😛

            1. I hope u enjoy it as much as i did. I really think its a lovely drama.

              I will send u the link to my movie pitch! I’d LOVE to hear what u think. Ha ha i wrote that before Toby came into the picture. I will do a new pitch w/ him in the lead tho 😁

                1. It’s actually in my sidebar, dahling Mel 😉 https://flixchatter.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/hollywood-movie-draft-pitch-hearts-want/ I’d be so thrilled if you wouldn’t mind reading it and let me know what you think. It’s my first movie pitch ever, which took me quite a while to do but now I miss doing it! I think I’m gonna create a blogathon in November where I’ll ask people to do their own movie pitch if they can cast ANYONE they want for any movie they want 😀

  6. You clearly liked this one more than I did. I thought it was fine, but the ending couple with my reservations with the story generated a lukewarm response on my part 😦

    Maybe because I was watching with a tough NYC crowd, eh?

    MacAvoy has a great American accent btw.

    1. Hi Iba! I actually like the ending, so yeah I guess I like this one more than most [well, the twelve people who saw it, apparently]. I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to it but I was quite absorbed by the story and the performances are so good that I felt like I wasn’t watching them act. Yep I agree McAvoy’s American accent is very good, I absolutely loved him in this.

  7. This is exactly the type of movie I’ve been waiting to see this year! And it seems like it has yet to show in theaters anywhere around me, so it’s a bit disappointing as I’ve been looking forward to this movie. Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much. Definitely hoping to catch it once it’s been released around here!

    1. It’s a bummer it’s not showing near you. I heard the film didn’t do well at the box office which is a shame! I really enjoyed the performances, which made me forgive some of the flaws in the direction. Hope you like it too!

  8. rollonthemovies

    While I personally can’t wait to see it, as a big fan of both McAvoy and Chastain, the trailer didn’t make it look like something that would necessarily do well with ‘mainstream’ audiences, it didn’t tell you a whole lot and the pacing looked off.

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  12. I can’t wait to see all three versions of this, and your review has me even more excited! I also wish Gerard Butler could be the kind of actor that James McAvoy is. He started out so well, and he’s floundered lately, apart from the How to Train Your Dragon films and Coriolanus.

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